American Rivers, a group tightly focused on river conservation and restoration, is reaching out to the people who know rivers best: America’s fishermen. The Angler’s Fund offers fishermen an opportunity to help the venerable group (established in 1973, at a time when pollution, dam-building and devil-may-care insults to our waters was at an all-time high) in a mission to remove obsolete dams, restore fisheries and flows, and prevent pollution on all of our running waters.

American Rivers lays claim to some remarkable success stories–the dramatic removal of the Elwha Dam in Washington state, and the recovery of the once spectacular salmon and steelhead runs there is only one of many–and they are now seeking to broaden their base to the most obvious constituency.

One of the most impressive successful efforts of American Rivers is one that will barely make the news: a year long negotiation with the water managers on the Cheoah River in North Carolina. The Cheoah Dam complex (which provides hydroelectric power to tens of thousands of homes and businesses) served up a flood-or-drought flow regimen to the river that prevented a solid fishery (smallmouth, red eye bass, some trout) from ever getting a solid foothold.

American Rivers staffers worked with water managers to keep enough water in the river to give that fishery the foothold it needed. It was not too much to ask–no sacrifice of electricity–just figure out a change to serve the river as well as the electricity company and its customers. It’s the kind of hard work that gives us the fishing and hunting that we enjoy, and it isn’t free. I learned to fish on family trips to the Cheoah starting when I was three years old, so it’s important to me.

“Minimum flows, minimum dissolved oxygen levels for fish, these are things that every fishermen understands,” said Steve White, of American Rivers. “We’ve worked on these issues for so long, and we want to get the help and the input from the fishermen, who are already so deeply involved in every part of this, to work together to protect these resources.”

At a time when so much state and federal government-funded conservation is being cut and pruned, the Angler’s Fund is exactly what is needed–private citizens who know what is at stake, stepping forward with some hard-earned dollars and joining together to conserve and restore our nation’s most valuable resource: water, and everything that comes from it, from a cold drink on a hot day to a week spent fishing and swimming with our children. Check out the press release–there are some great fishing trips offered, and a chance to truly learn about rivers and fishery conservation–and help them if you can.