Watershed Restoration: Principles and Practices

Chapter 26: What Works, What Doesn’t, and Why

J. McGurrin and H. Forsgren

doi: https://doi.org/10.47886/9781888569049.ch26

For centuries, humans have altered the physical character and water quality of streams and rivers throughout the world. Major transformations of North American rivers that changed the spawning, incubation, rearing, feeding, and migratory habitats necessary for fish survival began in the early nineteenth century (Mrowka 1974). Because rivers are formed by their surrounding drainage basins or watersheds, the health of rivers and their fisheries can be directly affected when humans use and alter the landscapes within a watershed (Meehan 1991). Although our knowledge of the basic relationships among fish populations, fish habitat, and watersheds is improving rapidly, there is only partial documentation of broadscale trends of fish and habitat loss.

An inventory of the nation’s rivers was initiated in the late 1970s by the U.S. Heritage Conservation and Recreation Service. After elimination of the agency in 1980, in 1982 the U.S. National Park Service completed the study, known as the Nationwide Rivers Inventory. The inventory’s purpose was to identify streams or stream segments of high quality that had the potential for designation as wild, scenic, and recreational rivers. The Nationwide Rivers Inventory represents the only available comprehensive survey of U.S. streams in the 1980s. The survey indicated that of approximately 3.1 million miles of streams in the nation, exclusive of Alaska and Hawaii, only 2% (<62,000 miles) had sufficient high-quality habitat features to be worthy of federal protection status (Benke 1990).