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May 31, 2004
Rivers Month Celebrates State’s Most Valuable Resource
AUSTIN, Texas — "Boundaries don’t protect rivers, people do." These words by the great philosopher Aristotle are more important today than they have ever been before, as Gov. Rick Perry’s recent proclamation declaring June as Rivers Month in Texas states.
"With 191,000 miles of rivers and streams in 15 major river systems, no resource is more important to the future of Texas," said Melissa Parker, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department river conservation coordinator. "As sources of invaluable water supplies, as providers of energy to drive our economic engine, as valuable sites for recreation, and as age-old means of transportation, rivers are invaluable to Texas. Our conservation actions today can make a positive difference for the future."
There are 15 major river basins in Texas that provide crucial freshwater inflows to coastal estuaries. These rivers and their many tributaries transport life-giving nutrients to the coast. Estuaries, where river freshwater meets saltwater, are ecologically and economically important because they are the breeding grounds for shrimp, crabs, and many of the fish species that form the foundation of multi-billion dollar sport and commercial fisheries. Without adequate freshwater inflows to these estuaries, they become too saline to support these important species.
"Rivers are not only important as sources of drinking water, electricity, and for providing freshwater to estuaries, they are what formed the landscape of our state and the cities and towns that were developed on their banks," said Parker. "Each river is a unique system that supports a variety of plants, animals, and aesthetic and recreational opportunities. During June, we encourage all Texans to go out and enjoy a nearby river to fish, wade, swim, paddle, or just enjoy the serene beauty a river provides."
Parker said rivers provide direct benefits to Texans by assimilating and naturally treating wastes, recharging aquifers, and buffering floods. They provide statewide recreational opportunities including boating, fishing, canoeing, hunting, and birding.
Rivers also supply water for municipalities, industries and agriculture, and replenish wetlands and bottomland hardwoods, some of the most important yet most rapidly disappearing wildlife habitat types in Texas.
Yet rivers are threatened, Parker said. According to Texas Commission on Environmental Quality data, of the 14,315 miles of streams that were evaluated for a recent report, 12,892 miles of monitored streams meet the requirements of aquatic life. This means 10 percent of the monitored streams did not adequately support life.
For water contact recreation, only about 71 percent of the classified streams in Texas are considered safe to swim, water ski or wade in.
A recent positive step toward enhanced stewardship of rivers in Texas was the passage of Senate Bill 155 in the 78th Legislature. This bill prohibits, with certain exemptions, the use of motorized vehicles in navigable streambeds. For more information on Senate Bill 155, visit the TPWD Web site (http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/texaswater/rivers/mvindex.phtml).
Bob Spain, TPWD Director of Habitat Resources said, "The importance and function of rivers and streams are often not understood, and in some cases, this lack of knowledge leads to bigger problems when man attempt to change their free-flowing nature. The need to understand this role and function and communicate it to others, is the key to the conservation of healthy resources that can be enjoyed by present and future generations."
For assistance in learning about how you can enjoy and help conserve Texas rivers, including real-time river flow rates and access points to launch boats in various river basins, check the Texas River Guide on the Web (http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/texaswater/rivers/)
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