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Mission, Board & Staff

Friends of the Kaw (FOK) is a nonprofit, grassroots environmental organization whose mission is to protect and preserve the Kaw for all generations.

We seek to:

  •  advocate the rehabilitation of the Kaw’s environs, including water quality and wildlife habitat;

  • to promote compatible public recreational uses of the Kaw;

  • and to encourage the development of adequate public access.

  • To these ends we shall seek to cooperate with other persons, organizations and public agencies.

The Kansas River - known to locals as the Kaw - is the world's longest prairie river, with a watershed that drains over 53,000 square miles in Kansas, Nebraska, and Colorado. Over 600,000 people depend on the Kaw for drinking water. Since the Kaw corridor is home to 49% of all minorities living in Kansas (including 59% African Americans, 51% Asian Americans, 37% Hispanics, and 35% American Indians), the state's minority communities are disproportionately affected by the Kaw's water quality issues.

Brief History

FOK is the only grassroots citizens’ group committed to protecting the Kaw. When we formed in 1991, the river was almost completely inaccessible to the public. We changed all that by increasing the number of boat ramps from six to nineteen, and leading float trips to teach people about the river and show them firsthand the destruction of commercial dredging. Our first victory came in 1995 when we led a successful campaign to convince the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (COE) to deny a permit on the basis of the Kaw’s recreational value. Since then we have seen the number of permits reduced from 18 to 11, and only six remain currently active. Since 2001 FOK has been a member of the Waterkeeper Alliance, and we sponsor the Kansas Riverkeeper as a full time, non-governmental advocate to represent FOK and the Kaw on every major river stakeholder group. Our methods and vision have broadened but dredging remains our core issue. Now, we are prepared to muster our resources to oppose permitting for eleven remaining in-river dredging operations and encourage these operations to move to appropriately-located off-river pit mines. FOK has learned a lot about how to fight dredging, but we are up against a powerful lobbying organization, the Kansas Aggregate Producers Association, and their history of commercially dredging the Kaw for the past one hundred years.