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Our View: Is St. Croix River really one of most endangered?

A conservation group has named the Wild and Scenic Lower St. Croix River as one of the 10 most threatened rivers in the nation.

The group that made the determination is called American Rivers, a conservation organization based in Washington, D.C. It has a noble purpose of protecting and restoring America's rivers for the benefit of people, wildlife and nature.

We find it a bit hard to believe, however, that the St. Croix is one of the top 10 of most concern in the United States!

The St. Croix flows 164 miles from northwest Wisconsin south to the Mississippi River. The Upper St. Croix River was one of the first of the eight rivers added to the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System by Congress in 1968, and four years later the lower 52 miles were protected as the Lower St. Croix National Scenic Riverway. The 26 miles south of Stillwater and Houlton is managed by the states and includes the portion of the river that runs through Hudson - that is the portion that is of most concern to American Rivers.

They say "short-sighted zoning decisions along a 26-mile stretch of this protected river threaten to damage the very qualities that make the river so special and appealing to residents and visitors. Minnesota and Wisconsin must renew their commitment to this nationally recognized river segment and work with riverfront counties, townships and municipalities to ensure development is responsibly planned so that the river remains protected for future generations."

We appreciate the organization's concern about the St. Croix River. Those same concerns have been expressed by communities along the river and the Wisconsin DNR for several decades. If anything, we hear of more complaints about the tough regulations that handcuff property owners and communities along the St. Croix. From what we see, and hear, most observers consider the St. Croix to be one of the cleanest and best-kept waterways around.

That said, it seems that there is more development along the Minnesota side of the river - maybe that's what caught the attention of American Rivers

The organization calls for a moratorium on all zoning variances within the river boundary for the next two years, and then a revision of zoning standards to protect the river. The organization calls on the departments of natural resources of Minnesota and Wisconsin to expand their oversight of local zoning decisions that affect the state-managed portion of the river way.

This is all good advice and there are legitimate causes for concern along the St. Croix. The association notes that the population in the St. Croix River basin will increase by 40 percent by 2020.

However, with the history of the St. Croix, limited development along its banks and generally strong conservation efforts regarding the St. Croix, we still find it hard to believe that it's on the top 10 list of rivers in the entire United States!