February 4, 1997

"Tonight, I announce that this year I will designate 10 American Heritage Rivers, to help communities alongside them revitalize their waterfronts and clean up pollution."

- President Clinton
State of the Union Address, February 4, 1997


Objective of American Heritage Rivers Initiative. President Clinton is creating American Heritage Rivers to protect and restore America's great rivers. The President's objective is to enhance our citizens' enjoyment of the historic, cultural, recreational, economic and environmental value of our rivers and to protect the health of our communities.

Rivers have always been an integral part of our nation's history providing opportunities for commerce, routes for exploration, inspiration for ideas and culture, means of recreation, and sources of drinking water. Across America many communities are working to protect their rivers and revitalize their waterfronts. The federal government will offer support to these communities by providing them with better tools and encouraging local efforts that deserve recognition.


President Clinton is charging his Cabinet to work with communities to design an initiative that will support community efforts on behalf of their rivers. The Cabinet will make program recommendations to the President within 90 days for his approval.


"American Heritage Rivers." President Clinton will offer special recognition to outstanding stretches of America's rivers by selecting them to be "American Heritage Rivers." Communities will nominate sites to be considered for this status. Federal agencies will refocus resources to provide particular assistance to these areas. The President will select ten American Heritage Rivers the first year.

Matching Community Involvement with Federal Support. The American Heritage Rivers effort will be a partnership between the federal government and the people who enjoy the many values of a river. The partnerships will be created from the community up, through local, state, tribal, and federal governments rather than from the top down. Many of these actions will apply nationwide, as well as for American Heritage Rivers.


American Heritage Rivers. President Clinton will select ten outstanding stretches of river as American Heritage Rivers in the first year. The Administration will incorporate into future efforts the lessons learned from these communities.

Enhanced Government Tools. President Clinton is directing his Cabinet to refocus programs, grants, and technical assistance to provide special support to American Heritage Rivers. Each community supporting an American Heritage River will be given resources to catalyze their community's work on behalf of a restored, revitalized river.

Better Decisions. President Clinton is directing federal agencies to adopt a "good neighbor" policy in making decisions, taking into consideration the effects upon American Heritage Rivers of actions by federal agencies.

Community Representative. President Clinton is directing agencies to provide a community representative to help implement the community's vision and provide a contact for federal resources in each American Heritage River community.

Nominations. Communities will be able to nominate outstanding stretches of river for consideration as an American Heritage River. Nominations will include information on the importance of the stretch of river to the nation's culture and history; to past and future economic development; and to public health and environmental quality. In addition, the Administration will seek a community plan for revitalization, broad support for the plan and a commitment of non-federal resources.


The Cabinet will prepare recommendations for improving federal help to all river communities, including but not limited to American Heritage Rivers. Examples of such efforts include:

Access to Federal Programs and National Expertise. Communities work with the federal government in numerous ways that affect rivers. The Administration will make it easier to access available federal resources to support community restoration, protection and revitalization efforts, and will create a clearinghouse for this information. This effort will also make national expertise available to communities and actively promote successful ideas about how we can work together to preserve our heritage.

Comprehensive Information for Communities. For the first time, communities will have access to all the data available to the federal government about the health of their rivers and the challenges to continued protection. The Administration will make this information easily accessible using the Internet and other methods.

A Talent Bank Across Communities. Many communities are already engaged in work to preserve their rivers and revitalize their communities. The Administration will create a "talent bank" of experienced local people who are willing to share knowledge and techniques about community river restoration efforts.

A Call to Action. The President is calling on private companies, nonprofit organizations, and state, local, and tribal governments to come together to restore, protect, and revitalize rivers that run through their communities.


Directive to Cabinet. The President is directing the Cabinet (including agencies responsible for natural resource management, economic development, environmental protection, and historic preservation) to develop the American Heritage Rivers effort by reaching out to those with experience in revitalizing their communities and rivers civic leaders, businesses, government at all levels, historians and non-governmental organizations. Within 90 days the Cabinet will report to the President the design of a program to meet his objectives.

American Heritage River Selections. As part of the design of the overall program, the Cabinet will recommend specific basic program procedures, including the process for nominating and selecting sites for American Heritage River recognition, and the considerations that will affect the selection.

Budget Impact. This effort is not to rely on net increases in federal spending or regulations, but rather newly-targeted budget resources and more effective regulation.

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