Amherst, Massachusetts

Andrew Fisk, Executive Director of the Connecticut River Watershed Council (CRWF), graciously welcomed us into his home for an interview that was originally supposed to occur outside.

Mother Nature had other plans, though. Rain pounded the Western Massachusetts for much of the day, forcing us indoors.

Fisk, who has led the CRWF for five years following a stint working for the state of Maine, said his organization tries to bring together people from different perspectives to identify and resolve problems.

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“The New England tradition of environmental protection is bipartisan,” said Fisk, noting that in these parts, people try to operate under the notion of “do unto others downstream as you would have them do unto you.”

We learned a lot about the Connecticut River during our conversation with Fisk.

“It’s not just any old river,” he explained. “It’s a river of regional and national importance.”

For instance, the Connecticut, at 410 miles long, is New England’s longest river. It flows from the Canadian Border with Quebec through agriculture areas such as Turners Falls in Northwestern Massachusetts and urban locations such as Hartford, Conn.

Ultimately, the Connecticut, which travels through four states and has 35 smaller tributaries, empties into Long Island Sound in New York.

More than 2.3 million people live within the watershed, many of whom rely on the river for drinking water, transportation, commerce, hydroelectric power generation, recreation, and more.

Fisk said the CRWF, founded more than 50 years ago, works hard to engage people in action, including community clean-ups, encouraging people to take ownership of their communities, and providing small grants to landowners to make changes to their properties to do accomplish such goals as improving aquatic habitat, mitigating bank erosion caused by floods and planting trees.

“You can’t just talk,” said Fisk. “You’ve got to do. Believe that you can make a difference. It’s all about partnerships.”

Our next stop is Clayton, N.Y., along the banks of the mighty St. Lawrence River, which is shared by the U.S., Canada, and several Native American and Canadian First Nations. Our education continues.

To see more photos of our time in Massachusetts please visit our Connecticut River gallery page