GROTON – The bright sunshine reflects off of the glistening waters of Nashua River as members of the Nashua River Watershed Association look upon it running through Groton. It’s a gorgeous view, but they’ve got some better ones to look forward to.
On Tuesday, President Donald Trump signed the Natural Resources Management Act, a bill that lays out provisions for the protection and management of natural resources on federal land.
Some of these natural resources include the National Wild and Scenic River Systems, created by Congress in 1968 to preserve the nation’s long stretches of flowing water that have natural, recreational and cultural value to people of today and the future.
That system now consists of the Nashua, Squannacook and Nissitissit rivers under the Nashua Wild and Scenic River Act included in the Natural Resources Management Act that was passed by the House of Representatives on February 26.
The Nashua Wild and Scenic River Act was introduced to Congress by former U.S. Rep. Niki Tsongas last year. Local U.S. Rep. Lori Trahan supported the progress of the bill through its passage.
“It’s wonderful to have the outstanding resources of these three rivers recognized and to have the involved communities, and the many partners that have come together, working to restore them in the future,” said Elizabeth Ainsley Campbell, executive director of the Nashua River Watershed Association, shortly after news of the signing was announced.
While others waited for Trump to sign the bill, members of the Association were already working on the next step.
Campbell said last week that the future of not only the Nashua River but the Squannacook and Nissitissit too will be determined by a stewardship plan drawn up by the Nashua River Wild and Scenic River Study Committee to ensure any federally-funded water project approved for the three rivers would not adversely impact the health of the water bodies.
Formed in 2014, the committee spent three years determining the best methods of protecting the water quality and features of the rivers based on research from selected members from 11 communities that the rivers pass through. Those communities consist of nine Massachusetts towns, including Ayer, Groton, Shirley and Harvard, along with Brookline and Hollis, New Hampshire.
“The whole process was a bottoms-up grassroots movement,” Campbell said. “We got a lot of letters for support and it was a tremendously vetted and supported effort.”
Al Futterman, the association’s land programs and outreach director, said last week that a Stewardship Committee would be formed by the Study Committee, once the bill was signed by Trump, to oversee the implementation of the stewardship plan put together by the Study Committee.
Both Futterman and Campbell were part of the Study Committee’s Outstandingly Remarkable Resource Values Subcommittee, which was charged with finding what impact the three rivers had to each town they flowed through.
Now that the bill has been signed by Trump, any project proposed for any of the rivers cannot negatively impact the recreational, scenic, historical or cultural value of the rivers, along with the biodiversity the rivers contain.
“We want to move those forward within the year and want to get people familiar with those resources,” Futterman said.
He went on to note that the stewardship plan contains “well over 100” proposed actions to benefit the rivers, including assessing canoe access spots located throughout the rivers, establishing meetings of conservation agents every other month and paying attention to any invasive species that grow in the rivers. It’s a hefty collection of methods to preserve the three rivers, and the Nashua River in particular. The Nashua River was once deemed one of the most polluted rivers in America.
Marion Stoddart, the founding director of the watershed association, said last week that she thought the entire process has brought multiple communities in Massachusetts and New Hampshire together for a proper cause and that it was “wonderful” to see government officials agreeing on the importance of the project.
“I hope that the community looks at their own towns along the river and comes up with plans on what they’d like to accomplish,” Stoddart said. “It’s up to participating communities to determine what kind of help they’d like to receive.”