The National Forest Foundation received $5M in USDA Forest Service funding to launch the Collaborative Capacity Program for Forests & Communities (Collaborative Capacity Program). Collaboration for forest stewardship involves different perspectives working together to find shared solutions to complex forest management challenges. We are at a pivotal inflection point for addressing climate change issues, like extreme wildfire and biodiversity loss, and finding adequate resources to address them.

Successful collaboration is paramount for sustained and adaptive forest restoration, sustainable and accessible recreation, wildfire resilience projects, and co-stewardship with Tribes. The Collaborative Capacity Program was created to support the foundational elements of collaboration, like strategic planning, relationship building, and communication amongst partners. This new program will invest in financial and technical assistance for communities, collaborative groups, and Tribal Nations nationwide to be successful.

The design and development of this program was influenced by an Advisory Committee with a broad range of perspectives and experience, including those involved with rural capacity building, Tribal co-stewardship practices, outdoor recreation and equitable access, collaborative conservation, and more. This program will continue to evolve and learn from the communities it aims to serve.

Sarah Di Vittorio, Conservation Connect Director with the National Forest Foundation, shares “By working together, we can better achieve shared goals like healthy fire-resilient forests, high-quality recreational opportunities, safe and resilient communities, and strong local economies. This program will invest in collaboration that leads to positive outcomes for people, communities, and forests.”

Today’s collaboration efforts strive to evolve and expand into a broader range of outreach and engagement with all impacted people and communities. The Collaborative Capacity Program emphasizes Tribal Nations and underserved communities in all aspects of the program and prioritizes activities that support meaningful involvement and voices of geographically impacted communities. Examples include designating a specific funding pathway for federally recognized Tribal Nations in recognition of Tribal sovereignty and the distinct government to government relationships held between Tribal Nations and the U.S. Forest Service. Furthermore, applications that demonstrate a financial need will be prioritized for the Collaborative Capacity Program’s financial awards in 2024.

“Being equity-centered means we will purposefully engage everyone—including Tribes and underserved, rural, minority, and low-income populations—throughout decision-making processes and engagement opportunities. When we engage communities, we must be sure to address the historical and cultural inequities that are a legacy part of our systems.” USDA Forest Service Chief Moore, Equity Action Plan July 2023.

A Request for Proposals for the financial awards program is now open through July 12, 2024. More information on technical assistance is forthcoming and can be found on the program’s webpage here. For more information on the Collaborative Capacity Program financial awards and registration information for upcoming informational webinars, please visit this webpage.

The National Forest Foundation (NFF) inspires all of us to embrace and protect the awe-inspiring natural world. In cooperation with hundreds of partners, we lead natural solutions that protect our people and planet. Through direct fieldwork, facilitation, grant programs, and promotion of responsible recreation, the NFF inspires people to get personally involved in caring for the 193 million acres of public lands that make up our National Forest System.

Contact information: Jaimie Baxter (Collaborative Capacity Program Manager) and Rebecca Brickner (Conservation Awards Coordinator) – [email protected] – 360.899.0962

Cover photo by Sabrina Carlos

National Forest Foundation