Southwest Rivers Headwaters Fund 2023 Request for Proposals


Applicant Webinar [View Recording]: September 29, 2022, at 3:00pm Eastern / 1:00pm Mountain

Full Proposal Due Date [UPDATED]: November 10, 2022, 11:59pm EDT/ 9:59pm MDT



The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) is requesting proposals to restore, protect and enhance aquatic and riparian species of conservation concern and their habitats in the headwaters of the Colorado River and Rio Grande watersheds. Up to $1.2 million in funding is expected to be available through support from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), U.S. Forest Service (USFS), the Walton Family Foundation, and the Trinchera Blanca Foundation, an affiliate of The Moore Charitable Foundation. 



This Request for Proposals (RFP) is part of NFWF’s Southwest Rivers Program, and will provide funding to projects that produce measurable outcomes for species of conservation concern in the riparian corridors of the headwaters of the Colorado River and Rio Grande. The Rio Grande focal area includes the main stem and headwater tributaries of the Rio Grande in Colorado and northern New Mexico, as well as the headwaters of the Rio Chama, Jemez River, and Rio Puerco. This year the Headwaters Fund expands its priority watersheds to include all tributaries and headwaters of the Colorado River in Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming. Projects located in the Colorado River watershed on Colorado’s Western Slope should be submitted to the concurrent RESTORE Colorado 2023 RFP. Priority projects will address the leading factors in aquatic and riparian species decline such as loss of natural processes and habitat, environmental change and invasive species through process-based methods of wetlands and riparian restoration. Maintaining healthy headwater wetlands and riparian areas can help store water upstream and provide security for water users, fish and wildlife downstream. Projects benefiting one or more of the following species and their habitats are priorities for funding. 

  • Priority species in the Rio Grande focal area include Rio Grande cutthroat trout, Rio Grande chub, Rio Grande sucker, North American beaver and southwestern willow flycatcher.
  • Priority species in the Colorado River focal area include Apache trout, bluehead sucker, desert sucker, Chiricahua leopard frog, Colorado River cutthroat trout, desert sucker, flannelmouth sucker, Gila chub, Gila topminnow, Gila trout, Lewis’s woodpecker, Little Colorado spinedace, loach minnow, narrow-headed garter snake, northern Mexican garter snake, New Mexico meadow jumping mouse, North American beaver, roundtail chub, Sonora sucker, southwestern willow flycatcher, speckled dace, spikedace, Virgin River chub, Virgin spinedace. 

In the Rio Grande Focal Area, conservation activities referenced in NFWF’s Southwest Rivers Business Plan will be most competitive.

Southwest Rivers Headwaters focal areas
Figure 1. Southwest Rivers Headwaters focal areas


Priority restoration activities that address key limiting factors for focal species in the Colorado River and Rio Grande headwaters include:

Process-based wetland, riparian and instream habitat restoration and enhancement – Restore natural fluvial process that increase floodplain connectivity, dynamic channel processes and recruitment of native riparian vegetation. Activities may include beaver mimicry structures, livestock exclusion fencing and riparian vegetation planting, removal of channel stabilizing structures, and grants may support science-based design and analysis for process-based restoration projects.

Increase water availability for species and their habitats and/or remove barriers to flow – Make available more water for environmental flows that are necessary to drive process-based restoration and sustain species and their habitats through voluntary leasing or acquisition of water rights in the focal geographies. Remove or improve infrastructure at road crossings, culverts and check dams that act as barriers to the movement of aquatic species or stabilize natural dynamic processes to ensure habitat connectivity and fluvial development of the whole valley bottom.

Reintroduction and translocation of focal species – Translocation of priority aquatic species to stream reaches with improved habitat and protection from invasive species. Reintroduction of or attraction projects benefitting North American beaver in a manner compatible with ongoing agricultural use and irrigation and land management objectives, and which benefits other priority species dependent on the habitat created by beaver activity.



To better gauge progress on individual grants and to ensure greater consistency of project data provided by multiple grant projects, the Southwest Rivers Program has a list of metrics in Easygrants for full proposal applicants to choose from for reporting (commonly used metrics are shown in the table below). We ask that you select the most relevant metrics from this list for your project. If you do not believe an applicable metric has been provided, please contact Kirstin Neff ( to discuss acceptable alternatives.

Project Activity Recommended Metric Additional Guidance
Water acquisitions or leases Water acquisitions or leases – Acre feet of water leased Enter the acre feet of water leased
Fish passage improvements Habitat Restoration – Fish passage improvements – # passage barriers rectified Enter the number of fish passage barriers rectified
Fish passage improvements Habitat Restoration – Fish passage improvements – Miles of stream opened Enter the number of miles of stream opened
Restore stream geomorphology to increase aquatic species habitat Habitat Restoration – Instream restoration – Miles restored Enter instream miles restored for priority species
Remove invasive species that threaten target fish species Habitat Restoration – Removal of invasives – Miles restored Enter stream miles from which invasive species threatening priority species are removed
Reconnect floodplain and reestablish native riparian vegetation Habitat Restoration – Riparian restoration – Acres restored Enter the number of acres restored
Installation of livestock exclusion fencing to protect riparian habitat Habitat Management – BMP implementation for livestock fencing – Miles of fencing installed Enter miles of fencing installed to improve habitat for priority species
Engage landowners regarding beaver introduction or engage other stakeholders regarding conservation actions Capacity, Outreach, Incentives – Outreach/Education/Technical Assistance – # people reached Enter the number of people reached by outreach, training, or technical assistance activities
Volunteer participation Capacity, Outreach, Incentives – Volunteer participation – # volunteers participating Enter the number of volunteers participating in projects
Installation of barriers to prevent the migration of invasive aquatic species Species-specific Strategies – Invasive animal or predator removal/ Fencing nests from predators – # barriers created Enter the number of barriers constructed to protect populations of priority species
Translocation of beaver for reintroduction and riparian habitat restoration Species-specific Strategies – Translocation – # translocated/stocked Enter the number of beaver translocated in the course of the project
Conduct translocation projects for target native fish species Species-specific Strategies – Translocation – # translocations and/or social attraction projects Enter the number of reintroduction projects for priority species
Expand species monitoring to new and additional sites Planning, Research, Monitoring – Monitoring – # sites being monitored Enter the # sites being monitored



Eligible and Ineligible Entities

  • Eligible applicants include: local, state, federal, and tribal governments and agencies (e.g., townships, cities, boroughs), special districts (e.g., conservation districts, planning districts, utility districts), non-profit 501(c) organizations, educational institutions.
  • Ineligible applicants include: international organizations, businesses or unincorporated individuals.

Ineligible Uses of Grant Funds 

  • Funds from this program cannot support fee title land acquisition projects. However, funds may cover certain transaction costs associated with an acquisition (appraisals, title searches, surveys) and for conservation easements.
  • NFWF funds and matching contributions may not be used to support political advocacy, fundraising, lobbying, litigation, terrorist activities or Foreign Corrupt Practices Act violations.
  • NFWF funds may not be used to support ongoing efforts to comply with legal requirements, including permit conditions, mitigation and settlement agreements. However, grant funds may be used to support projects that enhance or improve upon existing baseline compliance efforts. 
  • Equipment: Applicants are encouraged to rent equipment where possible and cost-effective or use matching funds to make those purchases.  NFWF acknowledges, however, that some projects may only be completed using NFWF funds to procure equipment. If this applies to your project, please contact the program staff listed in this RFP to discuss options.
  • Federal funds and matching contributions may not be used to procure or obtain equipment, services, or systems (including entering into or renewing a contract) that uses telecommunications equipment or services produced by Huawei Technologies Company or ZTE Corporation (or any subsidiary or affiliate of such entities) as a substantial or essential component, or as critical technology of any system. Refer to Public Law 115-232, section 889 for additional information



Up to $1.4 million in grant funds is available. We anticipate making 7-9 grant awards in this cycle. 

Applicants must provide at least $1 in non-federal matching funds for every $1 of NFWF grant funds requested. Eligible matching sources can include cash, in-kind donations, and/or volunteer labor which are directly related to the project proposed for funding. Applicants must distinguish between federal and non-federal matching fund sources.



All proposals will be screened for relevance, accuracy, completeness and compliance with NFWF and funding source policies. Proposals will then be evaluated based on the extent to which they meet the following criteria.

Program Goals and Priorities – Project contributes to the Program’s overall habitat and species conservation goals, and has specific, quantifiable performance metrics to evaluate project success. Project addresses one or more of the program priorities.

  • Project Need: Describe the relevance of the project for conservation of the focal species, and its relationship to any prioritization process, species conservation plan or watershed restoration plan. Proposals that effectively communicate the context for the project, in terms of how it fits into a broader restoration effort and why it addresses the most strategic need, will be the most competitive. Please provide this context within the proposal.
  • Activities/Methods: Describe how each activity will be implemented and the anticipated timeline. Explain how these activities address the key limiting factors the focal species. Describe how these activities relate to established plans and conservation needs. Discuss how this project either initiates or fits into larger efforts in the watershed, or, if this is a stand-alone project, how it will succeed in and of itself in restoring, protecting, or enhancing the species population(s).
  • Long-Term Conservation Outcome(s): Discuss the quantifiable/measurable long-term outcome(s) for habitat or populations that will be achieved, including how the project will enhance resilience to changing environmental conditions in native aquatic populations. Describe how the project helps achieve the goals described in the Rio Grande focal geography of the Southwest Rivers Business Plan.

Technical Merit – Project is technically sound and feasible, and the proposal sets forth a clear, logical and achievable work plan and timeline. Project engages appropriate technical experts throughout project planning, design and implementation to ensure activities are technically-sound and feasible.

Partnership and Community Impact – The applicant organization partners and engages collaboratively with diverse local community members, leaders, community-based organizations, and other relevant stakeholders to develop and implement the proposed project. This ensures long-term sustainability and success of the project, integration into local programs and policies, and community acceptance of proposed restoration actions. Non-traditional partners or communities are enlisted to broaden the sustained impact from the project. Describe the community characteristics of the project area, identify any communities impacted, describe outreach and community engagement activities and how those will be monitored and measured. Use demographic data to support descriptions and submit letters of support from community partners and/or collaborators demonstrating their commitment to the project and engagement in project activities as proposed.

Cost-Effectiveness – Cost-effectiveness analysis identifies the economically most efficient way to meet project objectives. Project includes a cost-effective budget that balances performance risk and efficient use of funds. Cost-effectiveness evaluation includes, but is not limited to, an assessment of effective direct/indirect costs across all categories in the proposed budget according to the type, size and duration of project and project objectives. Project budgets will be compared to similar projects to ensure proposed costs across all budget categories are reasonable for the activities being performed and the outcomes proposed.

Transferability – Project has potential and plan to transfer lessons learned to other communities and/or to be integrated into government programs and policies.

Communication – Project includes a detailed plan to communicate information about the project to appropriate audiences.

Funding Need – Project establishes a clear need for the funds being requested, and demonstrates that activities would not move forward absent funding.

Conservation Plan and Context – The project advances an existing conservation plan or strategy. 

Monitoring – Project includes a plan for monitoring progress during and after the proposed project period to track project success and adaptively address new challenges and opportunities as they arise. Projects awarded in the Colorado River Focal Area will be required to implement a pre-determined monitoring protocol for such projects that will be provided by NFWF. Applicants should plan to provide project access to a monitoring contractor supported by NFWF to allow execution of the monitoring protocol for their project.

Long-term Sustainability – Project will be maintained to ensure benefits are achieved and sustained over time. This should include how future funding will be secured to implement necessary long-term monitoring and maintenance activities. Projects will be evaluated with respect to their potential to maintain themselves or minimize need for maintenance.

Past Success – Applicant has a proven track record of success in implementing conservation practices with specific, measurable results.

Partnership – An appropriate partnership exists to implement the project and the project is supported by a strong local partnership that leverages additional funds and will sustain it after the life of the grant. Identify proposed partners, if known (including potential or contemplated subawards to third party subrecipients of the applicant), the roles they will play in implementing the project, and how this project will build new or enhance existing partnerships.  (Note: a project partner is any local community, non-profit organization, tribe, and/or local, state, and federal government agency that contributes to the project in a substantial way and is closely involved in the completion of the project.) If the project has any nexus with U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, USFS, Bureau of Land Management, and/or tribal lands or trust resources, please discuss their involvement in the project and request a letter of support from the appropriate office.



Applicant Demographic Information – In an effort to better understand diversity in our grantmaking, NFWF is collecting basic demographic information on applicants and their organizations via a voluntary survey form (available in Easygrants). This information will not be shared externally or with reviewers and will not be considered when making grant decisions. For more details, please see the tip sheet and the Uploads section of Easygrants.

Budget – Costs are allowable, reasonable and budgeted in accordance with NFWF’s Budget Instructions cost categories.  Federally-funded projects must be in compliance with OMB Uniform Guidance as applicable.

Environmental Services – NFWF funds projects in pursuit of its mission to sustain, restore and enhance the nation's fish, wildlife, plants and habitats for current and future generations. NFWF recognizes that some benefits from projects may be of value with regards to credits on an environmental services market (such as a carbon credit market). NFWF does not participate in, facilitate, or manage an environmental services market nor does NFWF assert any claim on such credits. 

Intellectual Property – Intellectual property created using NFWF awards may be copyrighted or otherwise legally protected by award recipients. NFWF may reserve the right to use, publish, and copy materials created under awards, including posting such material on NFWF’s website and featuring it in publications. NFWF may use project metrics and spatial data from awards to estimate societal benefits that result and to report these results to funding partners. These may include but are not limited to: habitat and species response, species connectivity, water quality, water quantity, risk of detrimental events (e.g., wildfire, floods), carbon accounting (e.g., sequestration, avoided emissions), environmental justice, and diversity, equity, and inclusion. 

Matching Contributions – Matching Contributions consist of cash, contributed goods and services, volunteer hours, and/or property raised and spent for the Project during the Period of Performance. Larger match ratios and matching fund contributions from a diversity of partners are encouraged and will be more competitive during application review.

Procurement – If the applicant chooses to specifically identify proposed Contractor(s) for Services, an award by NFWF to the applicant does not constitute NFWF’s express written authorization for the applicant to procure such specific services noncompetitively.  When procuring goods and services, NFWF recipients must follow documented procurement procedures which reflect applicable laws and regulations.  

Publicity and Acknowledgement of Support – Award recipients will be required to grant NFWF the right and authority to publicize the project and NFWF’s financial support for the grant in press releases, publications and other public communications.  Recipients may also be asked by NFWF to provide high-resolution (minimum 300 dpi) photographs depicting the project.

Receiving Award Funds – Award payments are primarily reimbursable.  Projects may request funds for reimbursement at any time after completing a signed agreement with NFWF.  A request of an advance of funds must be due to an imminent need of expenditure and must detail how the funds will be used and provide justification and a timeline for expected disbursement of these funds.

Compliance Requirements – Projects selected may be subject to requirements under the National Environmental Policy Act, Endangered Species Act (state and federal), Wilderness Act and National Historic Preservation Act.  Documentation of compliance with these regulations must be approved prior to initiating activities that disturb or alter habitat or other features of the project site(s).  Applicants should budget time and resources to obtain the needed approvals.  As may be applicable, successful applicants may be required to comply with additional Federal, state or local requirements and obtain all necessary permits and clearances.

Permits – Successful applicants will be required to provide sufficient documentation that the project expects to receive or has received all necessary permits and clearances to comply with any Federal, state or local requirements.  Where projects involve work in the waters of the United States, NFWF strongly encourages applicants to conduct a permit pre-application meeting with the Army Corps of Engineers prior to submitting their proposal.  In some cases, if a permit pre-application meeting has not been completed, NFWF may require successful applicants to complete such a meeting prior to grant award.

Federal Funding – The availability of federal funds estimated in this solicitation is contingent upon the federal appropriations process. Funding decisions will be made based on level of funding and timing of when it is received by NFWF.



Dates of activities are subject to change. Please check the Southwest Rivers Program page of the NFWF website for the most current dates and information.

Applicant Webinar [View Recording] September 29, 2022, 3:00pm-4:00pm EST/ 1:00pm -2:00pm MST
Full Proposal Due Date November 10, 11:59pm EST/ 9:59pm MST
Review Period November 2022 – March 2023
Awards Announced March 2023



All application materials must be submitted online through National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Easygrants system.

  1. Go to to register in our Easygrants online system. New users to the system will be prompted to register before starting the application (if you already are a registered user, use your existing login).  Enter your applicant information. Please disable the pop-up blocker on your internet browser prior to beginning the application process. 
  2. Once on your homepage, click the “Apply for Funding” button and select this RFP’s “Funding Opportunity” from the list of options.
  3. Follow the instructions in Easygrants to complete your application. Once an application has been started, it may be saved and returned to at a later time for completion and submission.


A Tip Sheet is available for quick reference while you are working through your application. 

Additional information to support the application process can be accessed on the NFWF website’s Applicant Information page.

For more information or questions about this RFP, please contact:, (303)-222-6485
or, (202)-595-2417


For issues or assistance with our online Easygrants system, please contact:
Easygrants Helpdesk
Voicemail:  202-595-2497
Hours:  9:00 am to 5:00 pm ET, Monday-Friday. 
Include:  your name, proposal ID #, e-mail address, phone number, program you are applying to, and a description of the issue.