Prized by residents and visitors for its scenic beauty and recreational opportunities, the Hudson River represents one of North America’s truly iconic waterways. Its productive lands and waters provide habitat for more than 200 fish species and 19 rare bird species. A tapestry of diverse habitats, including five globally rare tidal freshwater wetlands, add to the region’s significance. The millions who visit each year enjoy hiking, fishing, wildlife watching, and boating and support a $6.1 billion regional recreation and tourism industry that contributes to the region’s economic vitality.
Beyond its boundaries, the Hudson River and its estuary contribute to Atlantic Coast fish populations by serving as a nursery ground for fish that migrate among other estuaries, bays and off-shore areas. Striped bass, Atlantic sturgeon, shad and herring all spawn in the estuary and many of these young fish travel to the Delaware Bay, the Chesapeake Bay, and Long Island Sound.
Challenges Facing the River Today
Even before Henry Hudson first sailed it some 400 years ago, the Hudson River has been essential to the people who live along its banks – for drinking water, food, travel, commerce, manufacturing and recreation. Cumulative effects of habitat alteration, pollution and urban development have caused negative impacts to the river including degraded habitats, hardened shorelines, reduced floodplains and the decline of a once splendid fishery. While the Hudson’s water quality has improved significantly over the last few decades, now we must turn our attention to invisible pollutants and other problems, including plummeting shad and herring populations, failing stormwater and sanitation infrastructure and shallow-water habitat loss persist. These problems are likely to worsen with rising sea levels and other extreme weather events. Active protection of the Hudson River’s natural areas is critical to maintaining the beauty, quality of life and economic sustainability of the region.
Planning for the River's Future
The Nature Conservancy seeks to create a restored Hudson River that sustains the vitality of the Hudson Valley’s natural and human communities into the future. Our work will provide a clearer picture of today’s estuary and a set of priorities to guide future actions and investments in the Hudson River and its shoreline. Strong public-private partnerships are key to this effort -- the Conservancy is actively working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New York State, local communities and leading not-for-profit organizations to fulfill a comprehensive restoration and resiliency plan. Our actions take three forms:
- Work with Partners: The Conservancy has successfully established a dynamic new partnership, Partners Restoring the Hudson, to combine the knowledge and influence of scientific, community and advocacy organizations who share our goals.
- Create a Comprehensive Restoration Plan: Working with Partners Restoring the Hudson, we are creating a comprehensive, federally-recognized Hudson River Restoration Plan to improve ecosystem function and health, enhance regional economic potential and reduce risk to waterfront communities by building natural resiliency to cope with sea level rise and other weather-related events. This single, comprehensive plan will result in a set of priorities to guide future action and investment in the Hudson River that will help to create a healthier, safer and more productive environment for the millions who live, work, play and travel on the Hudson’s shores.
- Facilitate Improved Decision-Making: A better understanding of the river’s important habitat components and ecological processes is needed to grasp the habitat patterns, and fish and wildlife usage, as well as human activities. Informed choices help us protect the estuary’s highly valued ecological resources, while simultaneously supporting necessary community and economic development. The first step in this process is an ecological assessment that will drive the broader project management plan and subsequent partner organization involvement.
You Can Help
Long-term success in achieving this ambitious and far-reaching Hudson River restoration requires support from all who treasure the Hudson River and estuary – waters, fish, wildlife, lands and beauty.