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(photo:Michel LeBlanc des Neiges)

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Author:
Michel LeBlanc des Neiges

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(picture:Petitcodiac Riverkeepers)

The Riverkeepers

Michel LeBlanc des Neiges,
La Fondation Mèdias Verts
avril 1999

 

r.gif (431 bytes)ivers. How many of us in our modern culture understand the vital link between our rivers and the life that surrounds us? Over the past generations we have done more to hide, destroy, contaminate and separate ourselves from river systems than can scarcely be imagined. But that tide is changing thanks to an overall public consciousness awakening as well as an aggressive river protection movement spreading throughout America like wild fire, and which now has come to New Brunswick.

 

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Petticodiac
River

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A network of independent river protection organizations known as the Riverkeeper Alliance has been changing the face of environmental activism by joining the passion for nature found in traditional naturalist and conservation groups with high intensity, no holds barred legal confrontation. Begun in the mid 1980s by such well known conservationists as Robert Boyle, John Cronin and Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the Riverkeepers is an experiment in challenging corporate polluters and government quagmire in front of the courts. Long understood by environmentalists as an expensive and complicated venture, Riverkeepers in association with foreword thinking law schools from throughout the U.S. are concerting efforts in order to break down the barriers of the legal system and effectively lift the lid off government's and industries' last hiding place in our political system.

Riverkeepers prosecute and win cases against powerful corporations and governments who traditionally were not held accountable for destroying river systems. The first Riverkeeper, founded on the Hudson River in New York, has a litany of victories which have amassed fines of millions of dollars against polluters. In the process, the Hudson River - known for generations as a contaminated waterway worthy of jokes on the Johnny Carson Show - has become one of the most productive water bodies in the U.S.

 

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Map of the Petticodiac
System

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Thanks to its high profile exploits, Americans and now Canadians have been inspired to bring such positive results to other rivers, bays and sounds and in the process begin a wave of change in how we relate to our natural water ecosystems.

The first Canadian Riverkeeper has been set up on the Petitcodiac River in southeastern New Brunswick. Knowing what the Riverkeeper movement has done in the U.S., the significance of establishing Canada’s first Riverkeeper for the Petitcodiac River is clear to Gary Griffin and Daniel LeBlanc, the actual Riverkeepers of the Petitcodiac. "We feel that this is a watershed moment, so to speak. After years of fighting for the restoration of the Petitcodiac River, the people of our area now have a new breath of fresh air, a reinvigoration and an acknowledgment from the world’s most important river protection alliance that its cause is worthy and that it is possible to save the river", says Gary Griffin.

For over 15 years, Gary Griffin has kept the hope alive that one day the gates of the Petitcodiac River causeway would be removed. Before the movement for river restoration began, Mr. Griffin was often the lone public voice predicting the demise of the river and fighting to convince governments and community leaders that the Petitcodiac is an integral part of the life of this community. Besides monitoring the demise of the fish populations for the federal government’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans, on a volunteer basis, Mr. Griffin gave presentations to municipal councils, school groups and business organizations. He remained at the forefront of the issue when the Petitcodiac River's demise finally became a public issue over the last few years. He is particularly pleased that with the creation of the Riverkeeper a powerful new dynamic will assure that river restoration efforts proceed. For Mr. Griffin, Riverkeeper is a great boost of confidence: "By networking with so many other groups with similar concerns, there is now a movement afoot which will make our issues unavoidable by government and polluters. Also, the legal expertise behind the Keeper movement assures that if government tries to ignore us they will be brought to court. Everything has changed. I can't wait to see how all of this is going to unfold."

For all those interested in joining the Petitcodiac Riverkeeper Society or for information on its concerns and objectives, call The Petitcodiac Riverkeeper at 388-KEEP (5337).
The mailing address is: Petitcodiac Riverkeeper, P.O. Box 300 Moncton, N.B. E1C 8K9.
Email is at:  prkeeper@nbnet.nb.ca

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Last year, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and John Cronin published the book, Riverkeepers, which explains the evolution of this movement and its impact.

 

La Fondation Medias Verts
http://www.umoncton.ca/mediasverts/
Tel/Fax:(506) 858-4099

(Exerpts taken from the Riverkeepers website: http://www.umoncton.ca/mediasverts/riverkeeper.html)