Wild & Scenic Rivers Stewardship Partnership Funding

Click here to read our blog post on the success of the most recent round of projects funded through this partnership in 2020 and here for USFS’s executive summary with further details on the first round of this work.

The 2021 application period has closed. Meet our 2021 awardees here.

River Network and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) are excited to announce the third year of funding for nonprofit organizations working on stewardship activities on USFS administered Wild and Scenic Rivers (WSR) and surrounding lands.

To determine whether your Wild and Scenic River is administered by the USFS and find the local USFS contact, please see this USFS spreadsheet.

Goals of the Wild & Scenic Rivers Stewardship Partnership Funding

From the trout-filled waters of Michigan’s Au Sable River, to California’s Cottonwood Creek flowing through groves of Aspen, to Georgia and South Carolina’s much-loved Chattooga River, these waterways are shining examples of the Wild and Scenic Rivers that course through our country. These rivers experienced an increase in visitation over the last year as more people sought time outdoors further reflecting the value of these wild places.

River and riparian stewardship, community outreach and education, and water monitoring by local organizations are vital to protecting these rivers and expanding interest and care from the public to successfully conserve these rivers so they can be widely enjoyed and accessed into the future by all people. Local groups around the country have long stewarded these waterways and seek to further protect and enhance these special rivers in partnership with USFS staff and engage a broader constituency in doing so. The goal of this funding is to support a shared stewardship approach, between local groups and the USFS, integral to ensuring that values of these designated rivers and streams (including cultural, historic, recreational, fish and wildlife) are both protected and enhanced.

Award and Duration of Funding

This partnership funding will range from $5,000-$10,000 per award for work occurring between September 1, 2021, and March 1, 2022. There is currently a total of $54,000 available, with awards ranging from $5,000-$10,000. Groups may make one request.

Matching Funds

There is a suggested matching contribution of at least 50% of the award (e.g. if requesting $10,000, there is a suggested match of $5,000). The match may be accomplished through cash, contributed funding and/or in-kind contribution. Contributed funding in this context is where the member organization pays for a portion of the project through actual cash outlays for salaries, equipment, supplies or other expenses. In-kind contributions are generally for volunteer labor or use of existing equipment and vehicles.


  • Any 501(c)(3) organization working or planning eligible stewardship work on USFS administered WSRs and surrounding lands may apply (to determine whether your Wild and Scenic River is administered by the USFS and find the local USFS contact, please see above spreadsheet).
  • All applicants must be a free or premium member of River Network.

Eligible Stewardship Activities

This funding is to support Wild and Scenic River stewardship and partnership building activities, which include but are not limited to:

  • Stream monitoring/community watershed science (including development of new projects and initiatives that build capacity for longer term data collection)
  • River cleanups (including individual events)
  • River channel restoration and enhancement
  • Promoting native fish populations
  • Riparian habitat restoration
  • Invasive species management
  • Stormwater/sewage discharge management
  • Trail delineations
  • Erecting signage
  • “Leave no trace” trainings (including virtual)
  • Environmental education and outreach (including virtual), including recreational programs
  • Cultural preservation activities

Application Process

Applications for this funding can be submitted via the form at the bottom of this page and include:

  • A description of the project, timeline, a budget narrative, and a description of matching funds (suggested at 50% of total request);
  • A letter of support from the applicable USFS responsible officer(s) of the forest or district that administers the Wild and Scenic River(s) that is the focus of the proposed work (e.g. District Ranger or Forest Supervisor). This letter should also identify how USFS staff and the applicant organization will partner on the proposed activities;
  • IRS 501(c)(3) letter.


  • Funding applications are due by midnight ET on July 28, 2021.
  • Awards will be made no later than September 1, 2021.
  • Stewardship activities can take place through March 1, 2022.
  • Final reports will be due to River Network by March 15, 2022.

Evaluation Criteria

River Network and USFS will select projects based on criteria including:

  1. Impact – Project includes stewardship activities on USFS administered Wild and Scenic Rivers (WSR) and surrounding lands and furthers the values of WSRs.
  2. Reach – Project increases the diversity and numbers of volunteers and community members engaged with the organization and/or with Wild and Scenic Rivers.
  3. Feasibility – Project has strong potential for success based on project design, leadership, and realistic budgeting.
  4. Community Support – Project proposal demonstrates strong partnerships/community support. Priority consideration will be given to proposals that support communities whose members historically lack adequate access to outdoor education, recreation and/or other stewardship opportunities.

Impacts of COVID-19

Please know that we recognize it may continue to be challenging to plan stewardship activities given the uncertainty regarding the impact of COVID-19 and shifting health and safety guidelines. As was the case in 2020, this year we will again accept proposals for both in-person and virtual stewardship (or a combination of both) and will work to provide maximum flexibility for award recipients. All activities funded under this opportunity must follow any applicable local, state, or national guidelines for COVID-19.

For questions, please contact Katherine Baer.

Further Information:

Funding Application

Step 1 of 2

  • Organization Information