Respect the River and Respect the Rio are multi-faceted restoration and education programs designed to balance the need for preservation of riparian and flood-prone areas with needs of the public. They seek to do this by accomplishing the following goals:
- Identifying and addressing water quality issues that have developed from recreational use.
- Educating the public about habitat, habitat needs and on-going restoration projects.
- Creating community partnerships.
- Creating a program and materials that are easily adaptable to other forests and agencies.
Respect the River began in 1993 on the Methow Valley Ranger District in the Pacific Northwest Region to improve fish habitat and protect endangered fish species while reducing the impacts of recreation in riparian areas. Respect the Rio, created to address water quality issues in heavily used areas of the Santa Fe National Forest and to meet the needs of the high Hispanic population of the southwest, began in 2001.
Friendly to both fish and people, Respect the River and Respect the Rio work on two fronts: education and restoration. They use Contact Rangers, newspaper and radio ads, brochures, and interpretive signs in combination with restoration treatments such as fence and boulder barriers, scarification, and re-vegetation. Education provides recreationists with an opportunity to be stewards of public lands and protects the investment of improving habitat.
The Respect the River Program received the 2003 Region 6 Caring for the Land Award for its team effort to meet the objectives of the Aquatic Conservation Strategy while enhancing recreational opportunities on the National Forests through riparian/meadow restoration, user education in the field, and developing educational materials that can be utilized between agencies and organizations nationwide. It also received the American Fisheries Society 2003 U.S. Forest Service Award of Excellence in Riparian Management. In 2006, the Respect the River/Rio Web site received the National NatureWatch New Innovation Award.