How River Alliance supports local watershed protection groups

Nov 8, 2023 | Members

Thirty years ago, there was a need for rivers and streams to be protected by passionate advocates who were willing to speak up for clean water. A professor and a graduate student got funding to build a statewide river network. In 1993, the first board of directors of a statewide river group called Wisconsin’s River Alliance met on October 1.

They believed then, as we still do today, that there is a strong need for a statewide organization dedicated to river protection. The best way to promote the health of our rivers and streams is through building local river and watershed organizations. Over the years, our partnerships and victories with river, lake, and watershed groups have put grassroots organizing at the heart of all we do. 

When groups of committed community members want to restore a stream, protect a river from pollution, or advocate for clean water policies, they may need help to make their group as effective as possible. Some local organization leaders recently told us how we have supported them through training, coaching, and networking.


We answer the call when groups need advice and support services

“Ever since I first worked with River Alliance in the Protect the Willow movement, we’ve gotten a lot of behind-the-scenes help to make our actions effective. When we call for help, River Alliance staff answer the phone or get back to you. In Oneida County, the assistance we’ve gotten on mining issues has been fantastic, and it’s been greatly appreciated that River Alliance has a dedicated person working on mining. Between helping the Oneida County Clean Waters Action organization and the Coalition to SAVE the Menominee River, no other statewide environmental group has been more effective in giving us support.”

– Eric Rempala, Oneida County Clean Waters Action, Irma

Photo of Eric Rempala


We provide capacity building for grassroots groups

“The mission of Friends of Crescent Beach is to protect and improve Algoma’s Lake Michigan beach and the Ahnapee River watershed. River Alliance of Wisconsin’s support enhances our ability to fulfill our mission in ways that would otherwise be beyond the reach of a grassroots group like ours. Senior Legal Analyst Bill Davis advised us on updating our committee rules.  River Alliance webinars, website, and communications educate us on important water issues and better ways to conduct our business. It is reassuring for us to know that we can reach out for professional advice and accurate information.”

– Cathy Pabich, Friends of Crescent Beach, Algoma

Photo of Cathy Pabich

Now we include watershed-focused farmer-led councils in our local group family as powerful levers in improving our waters. As a statewide organization, we count on these local groups to be the front lines of protection for their home waters. 


We help local groups establish as nonprofits

“I joined the River Alliance of Wisconsin board this year because Clear Water Farms Director Mike Tiboris asked me to. River Alliance helped the Sauk Soil and Water Improvement Group get established as a nonprofit like it has done for many watershed groups around the state. Since then, SSWIG’s relationship with River Alliance has connected us with more people who want what we want: clean water. What our farmer-led council and River Alliance have in common is the ability to bring people together to share ideas and set our sights on solutions and practices that will protect water.”

– Ron Schoepp, Co-owner and operator of Schoepp Farms LLC and River Alliance Board of Directors, Lodi

Photo of Ron Schoepp


We support farmer-led councils like other watershed protection organizations

“The local watershed group that I belong to, the Eau Pleine Partnership for Integrated Conservation, benefits greatly from the support and guidance of River Alliance of Wisconsin. Many farmers, like myself, believe water quality plays a critical role in the future of our livelihood and the communities we’re connected to. We have a pretty good idea of how to pursue water quality on our own farms, while some of the organizations we partner with understand it at a community level. Through our trustworthy partnership with River Alliance, we are able to advocate for shared goals across the watershed and beyond.”

– Jason Cavedini, Eau Pleine Partnership for Integrated Conservation, Marshfield

Photo of Jason Cavedini


As River Alliance heads into our next thirty years of empowering people to protect and restore water, we have a new, five-year strategic plan that will guide our work. We’re recommitting to focusing our programs and communications primarily on grassroots local groups, leaders, and people from marginalized communities who face systemic barriers to resources, access to clean and safe water, and the clean water movement.


– Stacy Harbaugh, Communications Director


This message is made possible by generous donors who believe people have the power to protect and restore water.

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