The Nashua River is the heart
of a living, working watershed, with a landscape ranging
from wild to highly developed. Within its 538 square miles,
nearly 240,000 people live and work amidst scenic lands
and waters and abundant wildlife. A small corner of the
earth, the Nashua watershed is still largely rural at
the edge of a great metropolitan area. It is endowed with
a wonderful mixture of human and natural resources, from
mill cities to rare species.
For thousands of years, the watershed
has been used by humans. Today it retains much of its
agrarian and early industrial past while actively participating
in the high technology economy of the late twenty-first
century. The watershed's classic New England villages
now shelter those who create our current age, while its
waters, wetlands, and forests still shelter many of the
species that have been here since the retreat of the glaciers.
Thirty years ago the rivers of this
watershed were polluted by industrial and residential
discharges. The Nashua's restoration has been a model
of how communities can recover a natural resource. Today,
the natural systems of the river face a broader array
of forces that threaten the diversity, the history, the
value and the quality of life in this watershed. Wildlife
habitat is being fragmented, open land is disappearing,
and the byproducts of our civilization are fouling our
air and waters in new ways. In solving these problems,
the people of the Nashua River watershed can offer a model
of how human communities can effectively co-exist with
a healthy, natural environment.
The Nashua River watershed is an ecosystem,
an interacting web of life that is sustained by the elements
of water, soil and air. All of us - human, plant and animal
- are vital parts. We are all connected in this system.
The lives of all of us depend on clean water, clean air,
good soil, and on the actions of each other. We, the human
community, dominate. We can foul the water or make it
clean, destroy wildlife habitat or restore it. Our actions
affect the quality of life in the place we live and work.
Our challenge is to understand the
intricate workings of this ecosystem, to define the actions
that will protect and restore it, and to work together
to sustain our ecosystem. As we have planned for the watershed,
a common vision of its future has emerged: a healthy ecosystem
with clean water and open spaces for human and wildlife
communities, where people work together to sustain mutual
economic and environmental well-being.