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June 6, 2007

Knowledge flows at first Indiana Rivers Rally

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - The inaugural Indiana Rivers Rally will take place Thursday through Saturday (June 7-9) at Purdue University.

Purdue's Center for the Environment and Indiana Watershed Leadership Program partnered with Hanover College's River Institute to create a statewide conference to educate organizations and individuals about Indiana's rivers, streams, lakes and watersheds.

The conference will end with a session to help organize Indiana's first statewide river alliance, which would give conservation groups a collective voice.

"There are 70 to 80 different conservation groups in Indiana," said Brent Ladd, Purdue co-chair of the Indiana Rivers Rally. "If they could form a collective organization to serve their overlapping interests, it would be a huge outcome. All of the states surrounding Indiana have such alliances and have shown it to be an effective means of accomplishing goals."

Molly Dodge, Hanover College co-chair, said an Indiana Rivers Alliance would benefit the state.

"It's a long-range project that needs to take hold, and we need to work together on it," she said. "Other states are further ahead, and Indiana has wonderful waterways to enhance and protect. The Indiana Rivers Alliance would collaborate with other groups, educate the public, be an information resource and promote sound public policy."

Ladd said Purdue and Hanover wanted to create a forum for interaction among groups and individuals interested in Indiana's waterways, and the Lafayette area is an ideal location for the conference.

"In this small area of about 20 to 30 miles, we have some of the most unique river systems in the nation," he said. "There is a unique confluence of different rivers. The Wabash River is the longest stretch of free-flowing river east of the Mississippi and has a very interesting ecosystem. Wildcat Creek is the state's first designated scenic river, and the Tippecanoe River is among the top 10 most biodiverse rivers in the nation."

The Indiana Rivers Rally will offer more than 40 presentations, 14 workshops and five field trips led by university, governmental and environmental groups, to educate the community on ways to protect the state's rivers and watersheds.

"The workshops available cover conservation practices, including water monitoring and stream restoration, as well as strategies for working effectively with local planning officials and the art of fundraising," Ladd said. "Top conservationists, researchers and leaders of national organizations will share their knowledge. It is an exceptional opportunity."

Purdue has been involved in this field of education for many years, he said.

"Purdue has established itself as a center in the state for water quality research and education, and we hope to teach those who attend the conference tangible skills to increase their capacity to protect and improve the environment," Ladd said. "Rivers, streams and watersheds impact not only the quality of the water we drink and our recreational activities, but also are directly tied to the economics of the state and maintaining our culture and history."

Ladd said he has seen growth in interest in protecting and improving water quality over the last decade, with grass roots organizations and state and federally funded groups on the rise.

Dodge said more than 150 participants from all regions of Indiana are expected to attend.

"The purpose of the Indiana Rivers Rally is to bring all interested parties – activists, recreational enthusiasts, agency representatives, academic researchers and members of the general public – together to learn how to monitor, maintain and protect Indiana's rivers, network with one another and celebrate Indiana's waterways," she said. "The purpose of this first-ever event is captured in its slogan, Educate, Collaborate and Celebrate. We are hopeful that this event will spur a heightened awareness of the importance of Indiana's rivers."

The conference will take place at various locations on and off campus. The registration desk will be located in the lobby of Stewart Center.

Award-winning author and photographer Tim Palmer and best-selling author James Alexander Thom will present keynote addresses from 1-2 p.m. Thursday (June 7) in Stewart Center, Room 218 ABCD.

"Tim Palmer has been at the center of river conservation in America for the past 30 years," Ladd said. "He is a renowned speaker who uses breathtaking slides to underscore how rivers shaped his life and the importance of conservation."

More information and a full schedule of events is available online at http://www.indianariversrally.org , or by contacting Ladd at (765) 494-1949.

Writer: Elizabeth Gardner, (765) 494-2081, ekgardner@purdue.edu

Sources: Brent Ladd, (765) 494-1949, laddb@purdue.edu

Molly Dodge, (812) 265-2652

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; purduenews@purdue.edu

Note to Journalists: The conference begins at 12:30 p.m. on Thursday (June 7). The session forming an Indiana Rivers Alliance begins at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday (June 9) in Stewart Center, Room 218 ABCD. Field trips to local rivers and watersheds take place on Friday and Saturday. Friday includes a stream bank stabilization project beginning at 9 a.m., a trip to the Fall Creek Gorge Nature Preserve and a canoe trip on Wildcat Creek, both departing at 12:45 p.m.. Saturday includes trips to Canal Park in Delphi, Ind., and a canoe trip on the Wabash River, both departing at 12:45 p.m..

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