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In 2022, the Bring Back the Native Fish program will provide funding to projects that produce measurable outcomes for native fish species of conservation concern. Priority projects will address the leading factors in native fish species decline such as habitat alteration, environmental change and invasive species. Projects benefiting one or more of the following native fish species and focal geographies are priorities for funding. Activities referenced in a NFWF business plan or a well-developed, comprehensive conservation strategy targeting these geographies/species will be most competitive.

  • Pacific lamprey, Chinook salmon and steelhead in the Columbia River Basin.
  • Salmon in the Central and Northern California coasts.
  • Intermountain West native trout and char including Yellowstone/Snake River, Colorado River, San Juan, and Greenback cutthroat trout, bull trout, Apache trout, and Gila trout.
  • Native desert fishes in the arid southwest, including sucker, dace, pupfish, and other species, especially those with overlapping distributions with other native fish species of conservation priority.
  • Great Lakes native fishes, including lake sturgeon, lake trout and brook trout.
  • Southern and southeastern native fish, especially endemic species of concern in the Cumberland, Tennessee and Mobile (Alabama/Coosa) River drainages.
  • Native fish of eastern U.S. rivers, especially depleted anadromous species such as river herring and American shad.
  • National Scope – See Innovation within the Priority Activities below.


Restoration activities that address key limiting factors for focal species are priorities for the Bring Back the Native Fish program. These include:

  • Restoring Connectivity — voluntary removal of culverts and passage barriers or flow restoration to connect fish to key spawning, rearing and refuge habitats. Proposals that describe how addressing a fragmentation issue fits into a broader connectivity strategy for a given watershed will be most competitive (e.g., culvert to be removed was ranked as the highest priority in a comprehensive culvert assessment).
  • Restoring Riparian, Instream Habitat, and Water Quality — improvement of instream habitat through hydrologic restoration, secondary channel reconnection to tributary/mainstems, and levee removal, breaching or setback to reconnect rivers to their floodplains; habitat complexity enhancement through large boulder addition, log jam creation, and wood recruitment improvement to streams through upland and riparian forest management; grazing management and the replanting of riparian areas with native vegetation to reduce stream temperature and enhance reciprocal exchanges between aquatic- terrestrial habitats; reduction of sediment delivery to streams through road maintenance/management; channel stabilization and re-aggradation through beaver restoration.
  • Invasive species management — eradication or control of invasive species that fundamentally alter habitat for native fish species or compete/hybridize with focal species of conservation concern. Proposals related to this activity should describe the context of the effort, i.e., is this a perpetual management issue, or eradication possible. If the proposal seeks short-term support for a longer-term invasive species removal effort the proposal should describe the timeline and overall estimated cost of the longer-term effort.
  • Innovation — development of decision support tools and innovative approaches to fish conservation including landscape-scale assessments to determine where to implement restoration to maximize native fish recovery; piloting innovative restoration techniques; the identification of key flow restoration thresholds that enhance fish habitat and water quality in flow-limited systems; and innovative public outreach methods such as those that crowd-source data/information needed for native fish conservation.