Rivers are Life

Rivers are Life Supports South Yuba River Citizens League

On February 18 and 19, 2023, the Rivers are Life team joined the South Yuba River Citizens League (SRYCL) for their 21st annual Wild and Scenic Film Festival.

SYRCL is a league of California conservationists founded by grassroots activists in 1983. It protects and rehabilitates the Yuba watershed through targeted river, meadow, and forest projects. It is the key advocate for California’s endangered aquatic populations, including wild salmon, and works to strengthen native fisheries in the Yuba watershed to help them thrive.

Its recent river restoration work focuses on the Lower Yuba River, which has been impacted by hydraulic mining sediments, dredger mining, and levees. The team of watershed scientists work to provide a better environment for the native salmon and steelhead by assessing the conditions of the area and developing projects that are directly beneficial to their habitats.

SYRCL works through a series of strategic projects including the Hallwood, Hammon Bar, Upper and Lower Long Bar, and the Upper Rose Bar. Each of these restoration initiatives are thoroughly documented on the organization’s website, and paint a vivid picture of SYRCL’s dynamic and effective grassroots conservation at work.

But SYRCL doesn’t just work to improve the Yuba River. The organization continues its advocacy outside its community by bringing it to the rest of the world through its landmark film festival.

The Wild & Scenic Film Festival, (named for SYRCL’s successful campaign to achieve state Wild & Scenic status for 39 miles of the South Yuba River) is the largest annual fundraiser for SYRCL. Self-described as “a film festival by activists, for activists,” the festival’s events raise awareness of California’s endangered salmon, encourage greater protection for the Yuba River watershed, and inspire activism around the globe. For over two decades, SYRCL has invited filmmakers, adventurers, advocates, celebrities, volunteers, and people passionate about the environment to Nevada City and Grass Valley, California for its flagship event.

“Rivers are Life was thrilled to have not only shown our film, ‘Voices from the Water,’ at this year’s Wild & Scenic Film Festival, but also to support the festival and organizers’ work as its premier sponsor,” says Julia Regeski, BeAlive + Rivers are Life Impact Manager who attended the festival.

“Our contribution helped ensure that the amazing films from the festival will make it to more audiences around the country by supporting South Yuba River Citizens League, who organizes the event.”

The Impact of Storytelling

“Their efforts to organize and share the annual Wild & Scenic Film Festival while also protecting their local watershed serve as a testament to what happens when storytelling meets real impact – a position Rivers are Life is proud to share.”

Among the more than a hundred short films shown this year was SYRCL’s latest film, “Yuba is the Heart,” as well as Rivers are Life’s film, “Voice from the Water.” “Yuba is the Heart” is an ode to the river and the surrounding community, highlighting activists and protectors of the Yuba as they reflect on forty years of conservation, consider their future work under climate change, and conceptualize how to protect the river for coming generations.

The leaders and volunteers of SYRCL use film not only to bring great minds together, but to educate and inspire them to action. The Rivers are Life team had the opportunity to celebrate conservation work alongside the festival’s leaders.

“We got to connect with our fellow filmmakers, hear meaningful feedback from audience and first-time film viewers, and get inspired to continue our work to amplify River Heroes around the globe,” Julia says.

“It was incredibly powerful to be surrounded by so many environmental activists and cheerleaders of nature.”

The five-day flagship festival features over 100 short films on nature, community activism, conservation efforts, environmental justice, adventure, and more. It also hosts supplemental advocacy programs including workshops, talks from visiting filmmakers and activists, and art exhibits. Additionally, the festival takes special care to recognize the connection of nature to indigenous peoples – every showing started with an acknowledgement of the native land, and remarks by Nevada City Rancheria Nisenan Tribal Council member and spokesperson Shelly Covert were given at the start of the festival. By combining impactful visual storytelling with interactive events, the Wild & Scenic Film Festival cultivates an unforgettable experience that inspires greater care of our planet.

What began as a single annual event now tours with over 180 events each year. SYRCL travels all over the world to partner with community conservation groups while collaborating with grassroots teams to increase awareness and raise funds for their local environmental cause.

Wild & Scenic reaches over 65,000 people annually through its flagship festival and its tour program, and the effort is only getting stronger. Each year of the festival brings new venues, films, viewers, and activists to the tour to inspire a growing conservation movement.

Rivers are Life’s film, “Voices from the Water,” was an official selection at this year’s flagship festival. “Voices from the Water” is a short piece about the River Heroes who make a positive impact on their local ecosystems through strategic efforts.

The film features former journalist Fred Tutman, the River Keeper of the Patuxent, Nathalie Lasselin, a scuba diver, Clint Wilson, a professor and director of the LSU Center for River Studies, and Max Steitz and Franziska Trautmann, co-founders at Glass Half Full.

Each of these heroes makes a unique impact through their conservation approaches. From leading scuba river clean ups, to making polluting unprofitable for corporations, to recycling glass for coastal restoration, the river heroes use their strengths to build a better world.

The film also celebrates the creative efforts of these individuals as they break boundaries, develop innovative solutions, and dedicate themselves to the protection of their beloved waterways.

You can watch the trailer for “Voice from the Water”  here, or find the full film  here. You can also watch it in person at a Wild & Scenic Film Festival on tour, which are hosted by local organizations around the country.

SYRCL works toward a world where the Yuba River watershed can thrive even in the face of climate change. By supporting the Wild & Scenic film festival, any lover of film or the earth can help them achieve their mission. Rivers are Life is proud to be a part of SYRCL’s history as part of our commitment to achieving 1,000 Projects in support of our rivers.