Each year, many decisions are made that involve the utilization and conservation of Hudson River natural resources, or involve projects that impact those resources. Collectively, these decisions constitute the management of the Hudson River. Regardless of the magnitude and scope of the project or action, each decision exhibits the same common characteristics: it is made by a governmental body in the face of some degree of uncertainty, contention, and public expense. Decisions are made at various governmental levels, from municipal to federal, and the consequences of these actions can affect river resources at local or regional geographic scales.
For nearlyfour centuries, humans other than native Americans have been affecting river resources, with the most profound human influences occurring during the last 150 years. Responding to economic and social needs of a growing population, commercial navigation channels were dredged, dams were constructed, industries blossomed, forests were cleared for agriculture and wetlands were filled to create new land. By the end of the nineteenth century, the Erie Canal was completed, navigation channels throughout the Hudson River were dredged, dikes were built along the banks of the Hudson to increase the "rise of the tide at Albany and Troy" (Klawonn, 1977), the population within the watershed had risen to over 3 million (Hetling et al., 2003), and vast amounts of raw sewage from that growing population were discharged to the river. Changes to the biological, chemical, and physical makeup of the Hudson caused by human intervention escalated during the twentieth century leading to pioneering programs in New York State, such as Governor Nelson Rockefeller's Pure Waters Bond Act of 1965, and of important pieces of Federal environmental legislation from 1969 through 1972.
Today more than ever, there is a tremendous awareness of all the Hudson River has to offer. Besides the ongoing use of resources for human use, there is a growing appreciation that the river is part of the fabric and culture of the region. As its mysteries are unlocked through scientific observation and personal contact, the river's ecosystem is increasingly being celebrated and embraced as a friendly and valued neighbor. Fortunately, great strides have been made over the past thirty years to clean up and restore the river, but much remains to be done. Goals have been established through several government initiatives to preserve that relationship. But are these goals realistic and will they be achieved? Have we learned important lessons from the past? Are there mechanisms in place or contemplated for the future to effectively manage the river? How do we enhance our understanding of the river and use that knowledge to make the best decisions possible?
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