The Balancing Act

Thoughts on Protecting Our Environment and Ourselves

As a company based in the western United States, we are in the heart of many conversations about the best way to balance humankind’s need to use natural resources and the conservation of those same resources.  There’s no question that as a society we need things like oil, metals, minerals, wood, pastureland and such to power our economy and provide us with the raw materials we require for the lifestyle we enjoy.

There’s also no question that we need natural resources such as clean drinking water, clean air, and wild places to maintain a balance in our environment. The question then becomes: How do we responsibly and sustainably extract and use the resources we need? 

In an attempt to address this question, we in the United States have passed various environmental laws.  The most important were adopted in the 1960’s and 70’s due to heightened concerns about people’s impact on the environment (due in part to Rachel Carson’s important book Silent Spring) and in 1970, under President Nixon, the United States Environmental Protection Agency was established to consolidate the many different environmental responsibilities of the federal government under one agency.  Some of the important laws enacted during these decades included the Clear Air Act (1963); the Clean Water Act (adopted in 1948 as the Federal Water Pollution Control Act and considerably expanded in 1972); the Endangered Species Act (1973); the National Forest Management Act (1976); the Wilderness Act (1964) and, the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act (1968).

As a company specializing in travel on rivers, and particularly the wild rivers of the American West, the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act is of particular importance to us.  This Act recognizes that free-flowing rivers are a valuable resource in and of themselves and need protection.  In part it was passed in response to the dam-building craze that was taking place in the United States.  Today, there are over 75,000 large dams in the U.S. that impound around 18% of our total river miles.  By contrast, under the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act, less than one quarter of one percent of river miles are protected.  The main protection that the Act affords is the prevention of any future dams on the designated sections of protected rivers.

We are fortunate that many of the 12,754 miles of 209 protected rivers in 40 states are concentrated in the U.S. West.  Many of the rivers we run are protected under the Act including one of the originally designated rivers from 1968, the Clearwater and its tributaries the Lochsa and Selway.  Other rivers we run that are protected include Idaho’s: Middle Fork of the Salmon; Snake in Hells Canyon; Bruneau; Owyhee; St. Joe; Montana’s Upper Missouri; and Oregon’s Rogue and Grande Ronde.

Watch our video celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act.

Since our beginning in 1979, our mission at ROW Adventures has been “Sharing Nature – Enriching Lives” and this mission continues to inspire us.  We hope that by taking our guests into wild river canyons, we will help them better understand the value and importance of these national treasures.  By sharing our knowledge of and passion for these places, and letting the rivers themselves work their magic, we also hope to build more advocates for the protection of these rivers, and rivers in general.  This hope is central to our purpose.

As a company, we are active in supporting various river conservation organizations. We provide financial support to a number of organizations and also give our time by participating in local conservation efforts.  Setting an example, ROW Founder Peter Grubb served 14 years on the Board of Idaho Rivers United; 13 years on the Board of the Idaho Outfitters and Guides Association; and three years on the Board of Spokane’s Center for Justice, which is home to the Spokane RiverKeeper.  We sponsor a couple of our local Wild & Scenic Rivers film festivals, other conservation group charity events and, stay active and informed on various conservation issues.  Learn more here.

We also encourage our guests to become informed and participate.  One way we do this is through our River Preservation pass-through donation program.  This allows our guests to donate between $1 and $2 per day of their river trip with us.  Each year we raise around $4000-$5000 through this program.  This money is then donated to river conservation organizations that are focused on the river you floated with us.  To see a complete list and learn more about these organizations, please visit this page.

We are very concerned about the future of Idaho’s wild salmon and steelhead.  These amazing fish travel from Idaho’s river to the ocean where they live for 3-4 years.  Their migration back to the headwater rivers where they were born is the longest anadromous fish migration in the world. From the Pacific to the headwaters of the Salmon river is around 900 miles! To learn more about this issue, please go to this page.  

To learn more about our efforts to operate our company in a responsible and sustainable manner, and learn more about what you can do, please visit this page.