Mississippi River Basin

The Missouri River Exposed


The Missouri River Exposed
By Joe Riis, Conservation Photographer

Pallid sturgeon

THE HUMAN USES and aesthetic appeal of the Missouri River change greatly from the headwaters to the mouth. The river turns from a mountain river in Montana to a commercial navigation channel in Iowa. Management of the river has put the pallid sturgeon, least tern, and piping plover on the federal endangered and threatened species lists. Water storage in the Missouri River main stem reservoirs is at an all time low because of a combination of drought and large amounts of water (much more than is needed to meet municipal and industrial water supply needs) released to support commercial navigation in the lower river.

It is one thing to trade the incredible natural resources of the Missouri River for a viable human use that provides broad economic benefits to all citizens of the basin, but commercial navigation has never lived up to its billing, continues to decline, and provides little in the way of important economic benefits. If the management scheme of the Missouri River does not change soon, the recreation industry of Montana and the Dakotas will dwindle to a halt and three river species will become extinct. More importantly, the future generations of Great Plains people will not experience the Missouri River like their ancestors have.

Protected nesting least terns

The Corps of Engineers has managed the river primarily for navigation (one of their main missions) for over 60 years at the expense of fish and wildlife, recreation, native peoples’ interests, and other purposes. The time is ripe for change – ask your state and Congressional representatives to provide a healthy and balanced Missouri River based on the needs of all citizens and not the parochial needs of a federal agency or small special interest group.

[Posted by NWNL on Aug. 24, 2012]