Preserving the Wild Watershed
For over 200 miles in northwest Wisconsin and eastern Minnesota, the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway (SACN) flows through some of the most scenic and undeveloped land in the midwestern United States. Made up of the St. Croix and Namekagon Rivers, SACN’s pristine waters, forested landscape, and diverse, scenic beauty have been preserved as a part of the National Park Service for nearly 50 years.
SACN will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2018, also marking the 50th anniversary of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. The St. Croix was one of the original eight Wild & Scenic Rivers and was the only one to be designated as a national park at the time of the Act’s passage. SACN flows as it has for thousands of years, unimpeded by human interruption and influenced only by the natural processes of large floodplain rivers. This has allowed for excellent water quality and the preservation of the recreational, historical, geologic, and scenic riches of its rivers.
Working to protect, restore, and celebrate the river, the St. Croix River Association (SCRA) was founded in 1911, and is the oldest citizen organization in Minnesota focused on the protection of natural resources. Its commitment to the riverway has been driven by volunteers, partners, and passionate local citizens.
Executive Director Deb Ryun notes that, “We (SCRA) understand that if future generations are going to safely enjoy our lakes and rivers for boating, fishing, and swimming as we have, and benefit from open space for hiking, birding, hunting, and quiet reflection, we must act. People have to care enough to preserve open space, and the ‘wild’ nature of our watershed.”
The association’s primary objectives are twofold: to connect more people to the St. Croix through education, stewardship, and broader communication efforts, and to protect the river and its basin through land and water initiatives.
“Now more than ever it will take action from more people like you and me to ensure that the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway remains a place in which to slow down, recharge, and build memories,” said Ryun.
Over the past seven years, SCRA has prioritized the conservation of the riverway and focused on work that promotes the greatest reduction in pollution, increased land protection, and stewardship growth. SCRA has become the go-to group for addressing issues that affect the St. Croix. SCRA is committed to connecting people directly to the SCAN in ways that provide engaging experiences and encourage everyone to protect, restore, and celebrate the riverway.
SCRA believes it is important to connect people to the river though programming such as the “Rivers are Alive” watershed program: a multi-component program teaches students about the riverway, the connectedness of living and nonliving elements, and the diversity and abundance of life living below the surface of the water.
In 2016 (the program’s 10th year), over 1,600 students (ages pre-K through 5th grade) participated in “Rivers are Alive,” which was made possible through SCRA’s partnership with the National Park Service, Minnesota Interstate Park, Wisconsin Interstate Park, and Washburn County UWEX-4H.
One hundred percent of teachers surveyed said the program kept their students well engaged, that the program complemented classroom topics and learning, and that they would participate with their class again. As one young student commented after visiting the riverway, “Thank you for teaching us about zebra mussels, watersheds, macroinvertebrates, habitats, wild animals, and [that] everything is connected.”