British Columbia is a diverse province, with ecosystems ranging from semi-arid deserts to valley glaciers and vast ice fields. By world standards, BC has an abundance of fresh water in its lakes and rivers. However, rivers have been exploited for social and industrial purposes, often to the detriment of the natural values. Community groups and non-government organizations have been active in rehabilitating and restoring waterways.
The Outdoor Recreation Council of BC is a provincial non-government organization that has been instrumental in river conservation issues in BC. Three key initiatives have been established by the Council since its formation in 1975. BC Rivers Day has grown into the largest river celebration of its kind in North America, and there is a move to establish a national Rivers Day in Canada based on the model established in BC. Second is the annual Endangered Rivers List compiled by the Council and released each spring. The third initiative is the River Recovery Project in which dams and impoundment structures were evaluated against a set of criteria. A short list of candidates was generated by the project that will be further studied to determine what actions should be taken to alter the management of the structures to restore ecological values of the rivers and streams on which they are built.
The three initiatives described rely on local community support. The Outdoor Recreation Council of BC provides coordination, promotion, and publicity as well as some resource materials while local groups and communities take on stewardship roles for their local streams. This model may be useful for other jurisdictions.