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In 1998, River Network teamed up with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to institute the pilot Watershed Assistance Grants (WAG) program. The purpose of the WAG program is to support innovative efforts that build the capacity of community-based partnerships to conserve and restore watersheds.

Studies show that while foundations and contributors may acknowledge the importance of having a strong, sustainable organization in place, most grants tend to support on-the-ground restoration projects. Based upon the overwhelmingly positive response to the WAG program, it rapidly became evident that an important funding niche was being addressed. Forty-seven projects, representing a mere six percent of proposals received, were selected for funding.

Though the majority of projects funded during the pilot year will not be completed until Fall 2000, several important and transferable lessons have already become evident. A look at selected case-studies and an analysis of the grantees' mid-year reports, reveal the following:

With a minimal amount of funding, a driven and focused group can make impressive strides.

A viable organization with a realistic plan of action is poised to successfully carry-out watershed restoration efforts.

Community groups and organizations often experience unpredictable organizational changes.

Building trust and relationships among the various interests in the watershed takes time.

These lessons serve to further the watershed movement by providing funders clear evidence as to the importance of supporting capacity-building activities and by sharing valuable organizing techniques and advice among watershed practitioners.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2000-01-01

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