Gulkana Wild and Scenic Rivers, Alaska Bob Wick
 In Funding, River and Water Organizations, River Restoration and Protection

River Network and Patagonia Award Wild and Scenic River Grants to Four Grassroots Organizations


This October marks the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act. In the past half century, over 12,000 miles of 200+ rivers have been designated wild and scenic, affording extra protection to some of the country’s most spectacular and valued river stretches. Federal agencies are tasked with managing these rivers on federal lands, but they rely on engaged and knowledgeable citizen groups to bring management plans into reality and to take the lead on partnership rivers. River Network is supporting local groups from around the country doing vital work to protect wild and scenic rivers.

Through generous funding from Patagonia, River Network recently awarded four grassroots organizations with small grants to support work on wild and scenic river issues and campaigns. The grants support long-term stewardship and advocacy, and work to engage diverse audiences. We had overwhelming interest from groups and a ton of excellent proposals—54 proposals spanning 27 states, so there’s clearly lots of great work that we hope to support at a later date. Below are brief summaries of the successful proposals, which best outlined how funds would aid in long-term capacity building and engagement of a diverse group of stakeholders.

  • The Clarion River flows through the heart of the Pennsylvania Wilds™ landscape in the northern part of the state, home to rural communities and vast stretches of public land. Western Pennsylvania Conservancy collaborates with local groups and land management agencies to promote sustainability, conservation, community revitalization, and recreation within the region. Building off of this work, the Conservancy is celebrating the 50th anniversary by staging a two-day canoe sojourn on the Clarion in collaboration with the State Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. Educational programing during the event will raise awareness of land protection, stream restoration, and water quality monitoring taking place on and around the river—some of this programming will take place at Clear Creek State Park and will be open to the public along with sojourn registrants. In addition, the Conservancy will form the Clarion River Initiative to bring together local grassroots organizations, municipalities, and natural resource management agencies to improve collaboration on conservation and restoration goals throughout the watershed.
  • Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula wants to protect an additional stretch of the Yellow Dog River via wild and scenic designation. This added portion flows through the Yellow Dog Community Forest, a 689 acre preserve owned and managed by YDWP. The Yellow Dog flows through some of the most pristine and intact wilderness east of the Mississippi River, but nearby active and proposed mining projects threaten these ecosystems and is dividing local communities. YDWP will create a story map to help galvanize support for the Yellow Dog and surrounding landscapes, and to bring local communities together by fostering pride in their natural resources. To create the map, YDWP will commission aerial photographs and conduct field observations and surveys of the wild and scenic portion of the watershed. They are working with the Ottawa National Forest office, the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community, and other local groups on this effort. In the Fall of 2018, they will present the story map during a public celebration of the 50th anniversary.
  • Wild Places is interested in designating a stretch of the Tule River—in the southern part of California’s Sierra Nevada—as wild and scenic. They will engage a wide variety of stakeholders including disadvantaged communities in the nearby Central Valley to elevate the importance of the wild and scenic river system, and specifically to demonstrate the value of protecting the Tule as a community resource. Activities include river and riparian habitat restoration events, bilingual community meetings to discuss water and watershed issues, creation of a video highlighting how local communities can play a role in watershed protection, and the convening of regional organizations to assess interest and the potential for pursuing wild and scenic designation.
  • The Westfield River in western Massachusetts was the first of thirteen ‘partnership’ wild and scenic rivers designated along the East Coast. For over 20 years, the partnership program has allowed exceptional rivers flowing mainly through private lands to be managed cooperatively by a committee of municipal employees, land and business owners, grassroots organizations, state officials, and the National Park Service. The Wild & Scenic Westfield River Committee sponsors various K-12 educational programs to educate children and families on the importance of protecting the Westfield—one of the most intact river systems in southern New England. To celebrate the 50th anniversary and foster the next generation of river champions, the Committee will organize a unique exploration of the Westfield through nature lessons, storytelling, and art. The Committee will partner with local libraries within walking distance of the river to offer families a guided river walk focusing on ecology, river function, and stewardship. This new-found knowledge will be reinforced by creative storytelling and puppet making back at the libraries. Under the guidance of a professional puppeteer, families will create shadow puppets which will be used to help tell a river-focused story.

We’re also excited to be working with American Rivers and other partners to kick off a coalition of groups working on Wild and Scenic Rivers – contact us to learn more and get involved!

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