Wilderness Stewardship Challenge


Bankhead Sipsey.jpg
Alabama's Sipsey Wilderness


In 1964, Congress established the National Wilderness Preservation System, under the Wilderness Act. The legislation allows certain federal lands to be set aside as Wilderness Areas - lands generally 5,000 acres or larger that exist mainly in their "natural" state. The Wilderness Act describes these areas as places "…where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain." The U.S. Forest Service is one of four federal agencies charged with management of the National Wilderness Preservation System, with responsibility for 35 million acres of wilderness areas, or 33% of the overall Wilderness system and 20% of Forest Service land.


In celebration of the 40th anniversary of the Wilderness Act, the U.S. Forest Service issued a Stewardship Challenge, calling for all Wilderness areas in the National Forest System to meet baseline management standards by 2014. To meet this standard, Wilderness Areas are measured on 10 stewardship elements and must achieve 60% of the total available points. As of the end of Fiscal Year 2013, about 16% of Wilderness Areas did not meet this standard. The National Forest Foundation (NFF), as the official nonprofit partner of the Forest Service, has increased the resources available to meet this challenge since its inception, providing matching grants of up to $50,000 to nonprofit partners for the implementation of on-the-ground conservation projects that directly benefit National Forest Wilderness Areas.

For 2014 only one type of federal grant will be available, requiring a 1:1 nonfederal cash match. No reduced-match options are available through the competitive program at this time.

The NFF encourages organizations to conduct the highest priority work to help meet the Challenge. The NFF will provide weighted advantage for work that:

a) Conducts highly targeted work that advances one or more of a Wilderness Area’s eligible stewardship elements, especially if the element is managed below standard; and/or

b) Conducts the above work in one or more idenitified priority Wilderness Areas.



At the end of FY 2014, the Wilderness Stewardship Challenge program concluded. To learn more about previous Wilderness Stewardship Challenge grant recipients, check out past awards .



In 2012, the National Forest Foundation offered a series of peer learning sessions focused on components of the Wilderness Stewardship Challenge. Session topics include Recreation Site Inventory and Monitoring, Unique Partner Contributions, Invasive Species Inventory, Monitoring and Treatment, and a Wilderness Stewardship Challenge Q&A. For additional information on the peer learning sessions and recordings of each session, click here .

You may also be interested in learning more about the NFF  Matching Awards Program or Ski Conservation Fund .


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