The Missouri River Recovery Program is launching a new interactive online tool designed to provide insight to the river’s natural environment and efforts being made to preserve it. Steve Fischer, the program’s senior manager, says the tool is called the Missouri River Basin Explorer.

It lets computer users explore the waterway’s different regions, from the Rocky Mountain foothills, along Iowa’s western border to the lowlands of Missouri.

“You can take a look at each one of those different regions on the river,” Fischer says. “You can click on different tabs on the website and it’ll show links based on whatever topic you might have selected. It’s helping to show folks how things are interacting together.”

He says the tool was developed with plenty of input from stakeholders all along the Missouri River Basin. Fischer says the tool can help the public to better understand what takes place on the river.

“As we engage with the stakeholders in a variety of different venues up and down the river, for example our Missouri River Recovery Implementation Committee, our 70-member stakeholder group that we work with,” he says. “It’s a tool for them to go back and share with their constituents as well as for us to share with other basin stakeholders.”

The river serves many interests, including: agriculture, commerce, energy, natural resources, navigation, recreation and water supply. Overuse of the river, the group claims, has led to problems with the ecosystem — 51 of 67 native fish species now rare, uncommon or decreasing; reproduction has largely ceased for cottonwoods, historically the dominant floodplain tree; and aquatic insects, a key link in the food chain, have been reduced by 70-percent.

The group says three-million acres of natural river habitat have been altered. Learn more at the website: