NFWF Announces $1.8 Million in Grants from the Killer Whale Conservation Program

Grants will address lack of available prey and other challenges facing endangered Southern Resident killer whales

Killer whale at sunset

SEATTLE, WA (March 20, 2024) – The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) today announced more than $1.8 million in grants under the Killer Whale Conservation Program (KWCP), a partnership with BNSF Railway, the U.S. Navy, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The grants will generate more than $1.7 million in matching contributions from grantees, for a total conservation impact of more than $3.5 million.

The 10 grants announced today will increase important food sources for killer whales. Most notably, the projects could increase availability of Chinook salmon, which is a significant prey resource of endangered Southern Resident killer whales. In addition, the grants will help to reduce sound and vessel disturbance and monitor the health of Southern Resident killer whales in Washington. 

“Killer whales play a key role in the ecological and cultural fabric of the Pacific Northwest, but this iconic species has seen significant declines in recent decades, even with increased management protections,” said Jeff Trandahl, executive director and CEO of NFWF. “With the support of a diverse group of public and private partners, the grants announced today will help to tackle the complex challenges these whales face.”

The 74 remaining Southern Resident killer whales depend on the availability of various fish species as a primary food source but prefer Chinook salmon—the largest salmon species. Five of the announced grants support projects work to enhance habitat, increase abundance and bolster early life-stage survival of these migrating salmon. 

An award to the Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association will restore 10 acres of streamside habitat in the Nooksack River basin in Whatcom County through 40 public events, engaging more than 2,000 community members. This project alone will result in the planting of more than 10,000 trees and improving more than 20 lowland streams and sections of the Nooksack River, a high priority habitat for Chinook salmon.

The U.S. Navy's contribution came from the Department of Defense's Readiness and Environmental Protection Integration (REPI) Program with the goal to support fund grantees with critical conservation efforts in the Puget Sound, especially for projects that will restore essential salmon habitat and ultimately contribute to the recovery of Southern Resident killer whales, according to Navy Region Northwest Environmental Program Director Dina Ginn. 

“Preserving the health of our oceans and marine ecosystems is not only vital for the environment, but also crucial for the Navy's ability to train and operate effectively,” Ginn said. “We believe it is a natural and important component of our national defense mission."

“It is an honor to work with tribal nations and public partners towards a common goal of protecting orca whales, which are not only a Northwest icon but also a critical harbinger of the region’s ecological health,” said John Lovenburg, VP Environment and Sustainability, BNSF Railway. “Working together, we can make real progress in the health of this critical Northwest species and the overall ecology of the Salish Sea, its rivers and estuaries.”

Other awards announced today will reduce disturbance in killer whale habitat from both commercial shipping and recreational boating so that the whales can be more successful in hunting, and support the management of the population through a killer whale version of an online patient medical record. 

The KWCP supports efforts to increase opportunities for partnerships and facilitates killer whale conservation and management. Many of the projects announced today are being implemented in direct partnership with the managing agencies that are working to recover the population, such as NOAA, and are coordinated across state, federal and tribal efforts. A complete list of today’s grants made through the Killer Whale Conservation Program is available here.

About the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation
Chartered by Congress in 1984, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) protects and restores the nation’s fish, wildlife, plants and habitats. Working with federal, corporate, foundation and individual partners, NFWF has funded more than 6,000 organizations and generated a total conservation impact of $8.1 billion. Learn more at

About U.S. DOD REPI Program
The Department of Defense (DOD)’s Readiness and Environmental Protection Integration (REPI) Program fosters multi-agency initiatives and collaboration to preserve compatible land uses and promote resilience around military installations and ranges. These efforts preserve and enhance Department of Defense (DOD) assets and capabilities in support of military readiness through the creation of unique cost-sharing partnerships with state and local governments and private conservation organizations. The REPI Program is administered by the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD). Learn more at



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