Partner Spotlight: American Rivers



Amy Merrill, Ph.D., Interim Director of American Rivers’ California program


About American Rivers:

Rivers are life, and life needs rivers. At American Rivers, we believe a future of clean water and healthy rivers everywhere, for everyone, is essential. Our mission is to protect healthy rivers, restore damaged rivers and conserve clean water for people and nature. We combine national advocacy and on-the-ground projects to have the biggest possible impact for rivers and people.


Cover Photo: Phil Reedy





We share with California Trout a deep commitment to working landscapes that—when managed well—are good for the economy and river health. Additionally, we’re both committed to getting things done, taking action, and producing results; it’s why we make such great partners. Rivers supply most of our drinking water, so they are vital to our health. They are the lifeblood of ecosystems, supporting fish, birds, and wildlife. Rivers are where we go to fish, hike, paddle, explore, and reconnect with the natural world, each other and ourselves. 


Background photo: Mike Davis



When rivers are dammed, polluted, diverted, and/or degraded, their ability to support life diminishes significantly. Our work is urgently important, as we feel the impacts of climate change on our rivers, water supplies, and communities in which Black, Latino, Indigenous, and communities of color are disproportionately threatened.

In California, we are living with the impacts of climate change as seen by increasing drought, floods, and fires, making equitable solutions for healthy rivers and watersheds even more critical to our health, safety, and well-being now and into the future. 



Complicating our water crisis, we have overengineered and over-tapped our surface and groundwater resources. Our work in California is focused on equitably increasing the resilience of our rivers and watersheds to the ever-increasing threats of climate change and from a long history of maladaptive management. Our programs include ecologically-based forest fuel management through the portal of river health and habitats. In the Central Valley, we work with community-based organizations, farmers, and local planning agencies to reconnect people and floodplains, helping to restore our majestic and overworked San Joaquin and Sacramento Rivers and tributaries to the California Delta.


Here's a closer look at three important California programs:



California Leadership

Our California River Council is comprised of academic, water, science, philanthropic, and community leaders who share our love of rivers and mission to protect and restore them. They work closely with our conservation and philanthropy staff to strengthen our network of support and provide valuable advice and leadership.


How to Get Involved

Join the movement for healthy rivers in California and across the country. You can sign up for alerts and updates to stay informed and engaged. Consider becoming a member and join our community of generous supporters. And you can also organize a river cleanup which is a great way to give back to your community. 


About the Author:

As the Interim Director of the California program since May 2020, Amy’s expertise includes riparian and wetland ecology, monitoring and restoration, carbon cycling and sequestration.  Amy oversees the California program for American Rivers, where her team restores and protects rivers in the Sierra Nevada headwaters and the great rivers of the Central Valley and the California Delta.

Amy received her M.S. in natural resources management and ecology at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, and her Ph.D. in wildlands management and ecology at the University of California at Berkeley.

Her favorite river is the Mokelumne, from its headwaters in the Central Sierra to where it joins the San Joaquin River in the Delta.

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