The organization’s website has a long list of rivers that made the endangered list in previous years, in a section described as progress and successes. For example, shortly after the Susquehanna River was put on the list last year, Maryland and the federal government each made policy changes that presumably will benefit the river. After the Hudson was put on the list, in 2001, EPA ordered GE to clean up the PCBs that the company had dumped into the river.
Those are in fact examples of progress. But can they plausibly be linked to the endangered river listing? Probably not, but it didn’t hurt either.
Most importantly, though, the listing is an encouragement – it gives activists something to grab onto and publicize in their efforts to get governments and businesses to change the way they treat local rivers. It’s a tool that the people who know the issue best – the local activists – can use as they see fit.
So yes, it’s what media observers in the old days used to call a pseudo-event. But pseudo-events often fulfill their purpose, and my guess is that this is true for the endangered rivers list.
This year’s list, which came out this week, has a lot of rivers you’ve never heard of. You can see it at the American Rivers website, here or here.