New Funding Enables Expansion of Grande Ronde Community Science Project

LA GRANDE – (Information from Grande Ronde Model Watershed) Over the last year, the Grande Ronde Model Watershed (GRMW) embarked on a new project, the Qapqápnim Wéele / Grande Ronde Community Science Project, which is focused on understanding how the Grande Ronde watershed is changing over time as well as building community wide ecological awareness for watershed resiliency. Beginning in 2022, the project is getting a funding boost, enabling the expansion of a new youth-focused education project that will engage students in the monitoring of stream restoration efforts.

The funding received for the project totals to more than $120,000, which include the following generous donations: $11,000 from the Wildhorse Foundation for supplies, $5,000 from the National Park Service’s Crayfish Study to monitor crayfish, and $105,000 from Amazon Web Services (AWS), in collaboration with the Greater Oregon STEM Hub, for project implementation, Tribal guidance, and teacher and youth participation. In 2021, GRMW received $25,000 from Gray Family Foundation to research, build capacity, and pilot the program.

The new youth-focused education project idea began as an effort to engage youth in natural resources education as well as from the need to monitor stream restoration efforts throughout the Grande Ronde River’s watershed. Local watershed scientists, educators, students, private landowners, and members of the Indigenous community have guided the development of the project. Through that guidance, a participatory science research program has unfolded where youth from 8 eastern Oregon school districts, including 4 Union County districts and the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, engage in monitoring water quality, freshwater mussels, crayfish, streamside vegetation, and aquatic insects. Additionally, the Cayuse / Nez Perce name for the Grande Ronde River, Qapqápnim Wéele, meaning “The Cottonwood Stream,” has been added to the name. This addition to the name grounds the project with an understanding of our watershed’s past and envisions a resilient future for our shared watershed resources. Sites throughout the watershed are being identified for long term monitoring, including both public and private land, and are prioritized where stream restoration projects are located and where schools can easily access.

“This project is an exciting way to engage the future managers of our lands and waters in the
landscape’s current issues and remedies.”
Susan Roberts, GRMW Board Chairwoman and Wallowa County Commissioner

The GRMW program focuses on ecosystem restoration, coordination and outreach on private as well as public lands to promote species recovery in the Grande Ronde subbasin. Specifically, the GRMW program:
– Coordinates watershed planning activities with public agencies and private interests in the river basin to restore and enhance salmon and steelhead resources.
– Encourages and supports land and water management, economics, and multiple land uses consistent with sound ecosystem management.
– Assists in tracking habitat conditions within the Grande Ronde Basin.
– The GRMW has implemented or coordinated more than 300 habitat restoration projects since 1992. Some notable projects funded by GRMW in recent years include: restoring fish passage, in collaboration with the City of La Grande, to upper Beaver Creek for the first time in more than 100 years, improving passage in the Lostine River for adult Chinook salmon, and the large scale restoration of the Catherine Creek Southern Cross property that was acquired by the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation. A few notable management and coordination efforts include: developing three Atlases to prioritize restoration locations and actions, developing a robust unmanned aerial systems program (42 flights in 2021 covering 400 miles of stream), securing an Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board (OWEB) Focused Investment Partnership (FIP) grant ($7 million), and partnering with Union County on a place-based integrated water resources management plan. The GRMW historically had dedicated funding for education efforts but those funds were eliminated about 10 years ago, so this new Community Science Project effort requires grant funding.

About Wildhorse Foundation
The Wildhorse Foundation donates over $1,000,000 every year to local programs and services that benefit their giving area. They fund projects in the areas of: Arts, Cultural Activities, Education, Environmental Protection, Gambling Addiction Prevention, Education and Treatment, Historic Preservation, Public Health, Public Safety, Salmon Restoration. To learn more visit:

About The Crayfish Study
The Crayfish Study is a program of The River Mile, an education program of the National Park Service. The River Mile is a network of educators and students collaborating with partners to do real-world science and enhance the health of the Columbia River Watershed. To learn more, visit:

About AWS InCommunities
Amazon is working side-by-side with community partners where their employees live and work to find solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges and build long-term, innovative programs that have a lasting, positive impact. They are leveraging their scale for good and use their ability to innovate quickly to strengthen communities around the world. To learn more, visit:

About Greater Oregon STEM Hub (GO-STEM)
GO-STEM is a collaborative partnership with representatives from seven counties in eastern Oregon. Their work centers around three key priority areas: 1) Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) Awareness, Pipelines & Pathways to grow the workforce, 2) STEM Systems for Education to improve STEM educational opportunities, 3) Communicating Rural STEM Perspectives, Needs, Solutions & Opportunities to advance rural viewpoints. To learn more, visit:

About Gray Family Foundation
Gray Family Foundation is founded on the belief that fostering an understanding and appreciation of our natural world is a crucial part of a child’s education.Their mission is to engage people in Oregon as active stewards of our communities and natural environments.To learn more, visit: more information contact us at