MESSAGE FROM THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
Dear Friends and Allies,
As a nonprofit, we use words like impact, outcomes, results and successes at the end of the year to try and express the work we have done toward achieving our mission. We measure these impacts or outcomes in different ways depending on the kind of work we do. For the Alabama Rivers Alliance, your statewide alliance of river advocates, helping a certain number of local groups or getting a large number of our members to contact their elected officials are positive outcomes. For our rivers and streams, simply making sure they are not further degraded would qualify as a success for river advocacy groups.
You will read in the pages of this report about the important work we have done throughout 2016 and about the impacts we have made toward strengthening our Alliance and toward protecting our 132,000 miles of rivers and streams. Impacts such as reducing toxic pollution from coal ash by holding our electric utilities accountable, and impacts such as moving Alabama closer to a sustainable water management plan that balances the needs of our rivers and the needs of our communities. This work has continued to inch forward in spite of resistance from powerful interests who fear increased regulation.
The challenge is that impacts are experienced differently depending on your perspective. If your backyard creek is being polluted, then you may not feel like any of our successes were important. It is easy to get discouraged when individual problems are not being solved, even if progress is being made overall.
However, we cannot let discouragement overcome our movement. Discouragement leads to inaction. It is this kind of thinking that has led us to a place in our country where almost half of the population did not even vote in the presidential election. This inaction has resulted in an administration that will certainly attempt to take away vital environmental regulations that protect all for the benefit of only a few. Inaction is in many ways selfish. Protecting clean water and healthy river systems is not only about you and me — it is about future generations and the future of our planet.
Instead, we must come together like never before with our partners from all across the state, region, and nation to ensure that the Clean Water Act is protected and that other vital laws governing the protection of our environment are kept in place. We must put down our differences about how we go about doing the work of protecting the environment. There may be a need for all of the tools in the toolbox – civil disobedience, lawsuits, collaborative conversations, and, yes, compromise – just to hold the basic standards in place and resist attempts to roll back everything we have achieved.
Webster defines the word “resistance” as an action using words like “an act of” or “the power or capacity to” resist. These are active words. Resisting, whatever its form, is not a passive move. It must be organized, strategic, and action oriented.
2017 will likely bring significant changes in federal water policy with the new administration, which will facilitate changes at the state level as well. Our work cannot stop just because our challenges may be greater. Together, we will utilize the same successful strategies to continue resisting any efforts that would threaten clean, flowing water for all and we will incorporate new strategies when needed.
The Alabama Rivers Alliance has been leading a network of river protectors for the past 20 years and we are ready for any challenges the coming years may bring. Our board and staff approved a new strategic plan in 2016. This plan emphasizes three key components to our work – Empowering Citizens, Building Partnerships, and Advocating Sound Water Policy and its Enforcement. These three components are the building blocks that will guide our way through what may be the most challenging times our rivers have faced since our organization began in 1997.
I am grateful for all of the support we have received over the past two decades from individuals, organizations, foundations and businesses. Resistance to this new world of challenges will require new resources. We hope you will stand with us both actively and financially as we move into the next 20 years of protecting Alabama’s amazing rivers and water resources.