This article details the successful campaign to decommission two hydroelectric plants and a dam on Fossil Creek in Arizona—a rare perennial stream in the Southwest. Beginning in 1991, American Rivers, the Sierra Club, and community service groups utilized the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s recommissioning process to force the removal of the dam and plants. They faced opposition from the plants’ owner, the historical community, and citizens concerned over the loss of a seemingly “green” source of renewable energy. This study argues that Fossil Creek was a pioneering achievement in the larger movement to remove dams in the United States. After Edwards Dam in Maine, it was only the second dam taken down to restore fish species. In Maine—and in later dam removals in Washington and Oregon—valuable salmon and other anadromous species were the focus of conservation efforts; but in Fossil Creek, the effort was unique in that it centered on helping to save several species of rare desert fishes that had little or no sport or commercial value. The Fossil Creek victory represents an important example of the complex intersection of ecological restoration and environmental politics in the late twentieth century.

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