The resurrection of the Hudson River, partly creditable to Riverkeeper's dogged fieldwork and legal campaigns, has been dramatic. Some anecdotal evidence: My next-door neighbor is a commercial fisherman on the river, which is walking distance from my door. Just the other day, he delivered to me a weighty sack of soft-shell crabs he'd pulled that morning from the Hudson, a routine kindness that not so long ago would have been unthinkable. Two decades back, a sack of Hudson River crabs on the doorstep would have carried the same message as a black rose. But today? "Today, it's the only major river system that has strong spawning stocks of its historic migratory fish," says Kennedy. Though polluters still menace it (and fish-consumption warnings still stand), the single largest threat to the river these days is from development; after decades of strenuously avoiding the Hudson, says Kennedy, "people now want to live beside it."
Unintended consequences aside, the river's turnaround has proved a durable model for environmentalists nationwide; there are currently 90 licensed "keepers" on waterways across America, with an additional 300 applications awaiting approval, according to Kennedy. "We get up every morning and fight for rivers," he says. "We'd like to see ourselves put out of business, but I don't think that's going to happen."