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Documentary to air in July on the Merrimack River

CONCORD – The Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests and Conservation photographer and filmmaker Jerry Monkman have collaborated on a documentary entitled The Merrimack: River at Risk. The film explores the fragility of the Merrimack River and its watershed, the health of which is critical to New Hampshire’s livelihood. The film airs on New Hampshire PBS, Channel 11.1 (over-the-air),2/802 Comcast, YouTube TV and online at www.nhpbs.org/merrimackriver on, July 23 at 8 p.m. and again on New Hampshire PBS Explore Channel 11. 2 (over-the-air) and 11/801 (Comcast) on July 25 at 9 p.m.

The Merrimack River is the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution in America. During the 19th century, mills in cities such as Manchester, New Hampshire, and Lowell, Massachusetts, harnessed the power of the river to build the largest manufacturing plants in the world. Like many rivers in America, the Merrimack was heavily polluted as a result of industrial growth, but due to the Clean Water Act of 1972, the Merrimack has been cleaned up considerably over the last 50 years. Remarkably, more than 80 percent of the Merrimack watershed is still undeveloped and largely forested, yet in 2016, it was named one of the most endangered rivers in the United States by the nonprofit American Rivers.

Hosted by conservationist and New Hampshire native Leah Hart, the documentary spotlights the threats the river and the watershed face now and in the future. From water treatment professionals to river guides to community builders, Hart speaks to the people who know what’s at stake if towns and communities don’t work together to protect the river and the forests that surround it. It’s through these compelling interviews and Monkman’s visually stunning cinematography that viewers will come to appreciate the resources the Merrimack provides thousands of people every day and why it’s so important to protect them.

“The Merrimack River has been a focus area for the Forest Society since its beginning in 1901,” says Jack Savage, president of the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests and producer of the documentary. “The Forest Society’s first advocacy goal was the passage of the Weeks Act, which enabled the establishment of eastern National Forests. The Weeks Act cited protecting the ‘navigability of navigable streams’ – i.e. the Merrimack – as the source of Congress’s authority to acquire lands to protect a watershed. The Weeks Act passed, the White Mountain National Forest (the upper reaches of the Merrimack River watershed) was established, and protection of rivers as a natural resource began. Our focus has not changed, we are still protecting forests throughout the state and hence the quality of water running in our rivers and streams.”

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