The Housatonic River Initiative (HRI), a non-profit coalition of Berkshire County residents, was formed in 1992 to work to reclaim the Housatonic River system from years of neglect and decades of toxic PCB contamination.
We are conservationists, sportsmen and women, scientists, and homeowners whose land has been polluted. The more we have learned, the more we have realized what a large task we have set for ourselves, and the wider our scope of activities has become.
Riverkeeper is an independent organization funded and driven by concerned individuals like you.
Our vision: Clean, swimmable waters, a Hudson River teeming with life, and safe and abundant drinking water supplies. We are the model for over 300 “keeper” groups worldwide, reaching new levels of achievement and setting big new goals.
Listen to The River Art Project's most recent River Presentation
Reflections on the River by Paul Gallay, Hudson Riverkeeper
At Riverkeeper, we patrol the Hudson River every day. We test the river and its tributaries for pollution, protect some of America’s most famous vistas and assure that thousands of river folk have safe places to play, across a watershed nearly 14,000 square miles across.
There isn’t a day that goes by that the Hudson doesn’t take our breath away, with its ever-changing surfaces and endless capacity to inspire. Yet, here, a new development proposal threatens a cherished view. There, a previously undiscovered toxic site spews contamination into seemingly tranquil waters. Rivers can die from neglect or, just as easily, from the attentions of too large a crowd.
Rivers require room to breathe, which can be hard to come by, especially in urban settings. Still, most rivers are healing. Some even teem with life, as they did in the era of the great Hudson River School painters. Others struggle to recover from the staggering damage done to them since the era of Thomas Cole and Frederic Church gave way to the era of industry.
Would Church and Cole be moved to paint today’s Hudson River? Confronted by a Hudson dotted with high-rises and rimmed by highways, perhaps they’d pack their brushes and retreat to some other, less trammeled river. We at Riverkeeper prefer to imagine they would always be drawn to the enduring beauty of the Hudson Highlands, the Tappan Zee’s grandeur or the fall of Adirondack headwaters.
Last year, Riverkeeper began its second half century as New York’s clean water advocate. Over those first fifty years, new industries came and went. Power plants decimated the Hudson’s rich and diverse fish populations, which once made the river “run silver” with their sheer number. But, at the same time, the Hudson also became the cradle of the modern environmental movement, and gave us many of the bedrock legal protections that rivers everywhere now depend on for protection.
Riverkeeper was one of the founders of this modern environmental movement. We made our name as the group that went to court to fight polluters and we’re still that group. But, we hope that there’s an art to our work as well. Part of our job is to give the river a recognizable voice, one the public can hear and appreciate. We also work to give those who love the Hudson a stage upon which they can act on that devotion, through citizen science and public advocacy.
Riverkeeper got its start years before the Clean Water Act -- arguably, America’s most successful environmental law. Now, despite the success of the Clean Water Act in restoring the greatness of many of America’s rivers, we find ourselves fighting not only pollution, but also politicians who would flush away the Clean Water Act and give our rivers back to the polluters. Preserving our victories has never required more vigilance; Riverkeeper is called upon to help new local advocacy groups, nearly every day.
Riverkeeper is honored to be part of the River Art Project. Each of these artists has captured the lasting, ineffable beauty of our rivers, reminding us why our waterways, whether modest or majestic, inspire us to hand them down, better than we found them, to the generations of great artists and activists still to come.
Paul Gallay, May 2017