2024 Wilderness Stewardship Performance Grants Awarded

Twenty-seven National Forest wilderness areas supported with $190,000 in funding

The National Wilderness Stewardship Alliance (NWSA) 2024 Wilderness Stewardship Performance (WSP) Funding Program awarded $190,760 to 8 Wilderness Stewardship Performance projects in designated wilderness areas across the nation in late January 2024. Through this funding program, non-profit partner organizations and their volunteer stewards work with Forest Service partners to complete much needed wilderness stewardship work on Forest Service wilderness areas. The organizations funded this year will spend the upcoming field season educating wilderness users, monitoring opportunities for solitude, completing baseline wilderness assessments, conducting inventory and monitoring of trails and recreation sites, and continuing their work to engage and include a diverse range of wilderness stewards and wilderness visitors.

The slate of selected projects will support Wilderness Stewardship Performance score increases in 27 wilderness areas spanning 6 of 9 Forest Service regions. In addition to completing necessary wilderness work, non-profit partners will engage approximately 400 volunteers in 10,000 hours of wilderness stewardship activities, leveraging federal dollars at a ratio greater than 1:1. These statistics get more impressive when combined with awards granted in 2023, which originated from the same challenge cost share agreement with the Forest Service. On the whole, the awards granted through this agreement brought over $1 million in federal funding to support 33 Wilderness Stewardship Performance projects on 93 Forest Service wilderness areas. Leveraging this support at a ratio of almost 2:1, partners will bring $1.82 million in cash and in-kind contributions and will engage almost 1,500 volunteers in 50,000 hours of service by the end of 2024.

Selway Bitterroot-Frank Church Foundation crew members travel wilderness ranger style as they conduct wilderness monitoring and keep trails open in the Salmon-Challis National Forest.

“The National Wilderness Stewardship Alliance is grateful for this opportunity to support our national network of wilderness stewardship organizations through this ongoing partnership with the USDA Forest Service,” said Joelle Marier, Executive Director of National Wilderness Stewardship Alliance. “While the number of groups funded in this round was a little lower than usual, the impact remains significant. This funding lends crucial capacity to 27 wilderness areas, several of which have not benefited from this program in the past. Tapping their local, regional and national networks, NWSA’s partner organizations add needed capacity to our federal land management agencies and increase the impact of Federal dollars on wilderness stewardship. By connecting thousands of volunteers and others with wilderness, they help bridge the gap between wilderness users and the agencies managing public lands while maintaining both the health and the relevancy of our nation’s wilderness areas. The passion and effort these dedicated stewards contribute to wilderness is truly amazing and has become essential for the agencies and for wilderness.”

The Wilderness Stewardship Performance grant program is a partnership between the National Wilderness Stewardship Alliance and the USDA Forest Service. Grants support non-profit organizations conducting wilderness stewardship activities that contribute to improvement of Forest Service Wilderness Stewardship Performance scores for federally designated wilderness areas in the U.S. Wilderness Stewardship Performance is a suite of activities the Forest Service uses to measure their wilderness stewardship accomplishments and improve accountability in wilderness management. Partner organizations are vitally important in bringing Forest Service wilderness areas to the minimum stewardship level and to ensuring our nation’s wilderness areas stay wild.

Carry over funding from a 2023 Challenge Cost Share Agreement enabled NWSA to shift the timing of these awards to better align with the needs of our highly seasonal wilderness stewardship community. Applications for this program will now be accepted each fall (with available funding) and awards will be announced early the following year to give applicants more time to use the funds as they plan and prepare for the upcoming field season.

2023 WSP funding recipients, Friends of Nordhouse Dunes, giving away trowels and educating visitors to the Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness in Michigan.

Banner photo: Eagle Summit Wilderness Alliance shares a view from the Holy Cross Wilderness during their 2023 wilderness monitoring work.

Congratulations to the wilderness stewardship groups receiving awards this year!

Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness Foundation 
Bob Marshall Wilderness Foundation 
Friends of the Inyo 
Idaho Trails Association 
New Mexico Wild 
San Juan Mountains Association 
Sitka Conservation Society 
Southern Appalachian Wilderness Stewards 

Wilderness areas supported:

Pleasant -Lemusurier-Inian Islands Wilderness

Black Fork Mountain Wilderness (AR, OK)
Caney Creek Wilderness
Dry Creek Wilderness
Flatside Wilderness
Poteau Mountain Wilderness

Ansel Adams Wilderness
Inyo Mountains Wilderness
John Muir Wilderness
Owens River Headwaters Wilderness
South Sierra Wilderness
White Mountains Wilderness

Weminuche Wilderness

Gospel Hump Wilderness

Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness (MT, WY)
Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex
Great Bear Wilderness
Scapegoat Wilderness

Boundary Peak Wilderness

Columbine-Hondo Wilderness
Cruces Basin Wilderness
Latir Peaks Wilderness
Wheeler Peak Wilderness

Linville Gorge Wilderness

Upper Kiamichi River Wilderness
Black Fork Mountain Wilderness (AR, OK)

Rich Hole Wilderness
Rough Mountain Wilderness

Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness (MT, WY)