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Introduction How Rivers Run Stories Value Of A River What We Can Do
Think big thoughts
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As suburbs spread out from cities and commercial districts creep along our highways, conservationists may feel they are fighting over scraps. But recent experience on the Mississippi shows it pays to think big thoughts. As noted educator and leader in sustainable design David Orr urges: "Have big conversations. Talk about big things. Connect the disconnects." (Orr, 2003)

After more than a century of modifications designed to improve navigation, the Mississippi River is showing the strain. The productivity of its backwaters is declining. (See "Restoring Ups and Downs on the Mississippi.")

During the 1990s, the Corps of Engineers, which manages the river, advocated an expansion of locks and dams on the Mississippi. Dissatisfied with the Corps' response on environmental issues, the Upper Mississippi River Conservation Committee, a consortium of state and federal conservation agencies and various citizen groups, crafted a bold new vision for the river, described in the report A River that Works and a Working River.

Past efforts to restore the river's water quality, reduce sedimentation, and restore fisheries and floodplain productivity tended to propose specific solutions to specific problems. Often they met with limited success-or none at all. But A River that Works proposed restoring the large-scale forces that created and maintained the upper Mississippi for eons.

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