Watershed Protection Fund

The St. Croix Watershed Protection Fund: Ensuring the Future of the Riverway

October 2, 2018 marks the 50th anniversary of the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act. From this Act, the St. Croix and the Namekagon rivers became the country’s first wild and scenic river national park—and the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway was born. The Wild Rivers Conservancy is the official non-profit partner of the Riverway.

At this pivotal time in history, we are launching the St. Croix Watershed Protection Fund – a $1 million opportunity fund to ensure the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway remains an ecological, cultural, and community treasure for the next 50 years, and for as long as the river flows.

The Vision

The St. Croix Fund vision is to create a thriving watershed, forever accessible, wild and scenic. It took extraordinary visionaries to create this national park. Today, we are charged with building on this legacy and moving boldly forward to ensure the park is protected and preserved forever.

To help make this vision a reality, the Board of Directors has created the St. Croix Watershed Protection Fund. This Fund will ensure Wild Rivers Conservancy can respond to the increasing needs and threats of the watershed and address critical problems and issues as they emerge.


Challenges facing the Riverway and Watershed

It will take people to protect the Riverway. The changes in demographics, people spending less time outdoors than ever before, and the aging of our Riverway champions leave the Riverway vulnerable. Recruiting new Riverway stewards is vital to success. As we look to the next 50 years, the challenges and threats facing the watershed are substantial.

  • Diminished water quality from increased farmland and urban pollution runoff
  • Loss of forest and grasslands, and habitat fragmentation from development pressures
  • Encroachment of invasive species displacing native plants and animals
  • Intensified challenges to the protections provided through the wild and scenic laws, statutes and rules
  • Destructive impacts from climate change to the Riverway and watershed

The St. Croix Watershed Protection Fund

The St. Croix Watershed Protection Fund is an opportunity fund created to ensure that we have the resources to protect and preserve this national park forever. This Fund will allow Wild Rivers Conservancy to:

  • Respond quickly to emerging threats and opportunities.
  • Create new or adapt current programs and partnerships to meet evolving conditions.
  • Think ahead and be proactive in our management, delivering on our promise for lasting watershed protection.
  • Ensure our impact and long‐term relevance, strengthening donor confidence.

Ways that this Fund would be used include:

Secure land that has high scenic or ecological value or provide river access through acquisition or easements.  

  • Opportunity to purchase property to guarantee against a river-harmful project
  • Matching funds for a projects such as a solar panel property on the Totogatic River in Wisconsin to either make the purchase or as a stop gap measure

Take action to defend wild and scenic protections or other threats through grassroots campaigns, legal action, and other means.

  • Worked to stop a wedding venue project on the St. Croix in Somerset
  • Legal costs associated with the Murr Supreme Court case in Hudson

React quickly to emerging threats to water quality or invasive species through pilot projects or expanded programs:  

  • Purchase a sound barrier to protect against invasive carp
  • Secure special nets used in tagging invasive carp

Seize opportunities to maximize program impacts:

  • Expand the River Are Alive educational program for teachers and students to serve the growing demand
  • Serve more communities in the Northwoods through My St. Croix Woods

Our Unique Position to Address Emerging Threats

Wild Rivers Conservancy is uniquely positioned to meet the emerging needs of the Riverway and watershed.  Over the past eight years, Wild Rivers Conservancy has grown from a budget of $25,000 to over $1 million. Today, we have a staff of eleven professionals, which is augmented with 12 interns and seasonal employees during the year, and a 21-member Board of Directors comprised of civic and business leaders from Minnesota and Wisconsin. On the programmatic side, we have had growth and expansion in all four program areas—water quality, education, invasive species and land conservation.

Wild Rivers Conservancy is the only organization focused on the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway and its watershed. We address the entire system from a global view of the challenges. Given our size, we can act quickly to emerging threats and can move fast to convene partners, act, and solve problems.


Now is the Time for Bold Action

The needs of the watershed are urgent, real and will continue to increase with federal and state funding challenges and climate change. This beautiful Riverway has been here for eons. It is easy to take it for granted that it will always be here—and ready to serve the needs of future generations as it has in the past.

The promise of the Protection Fund is that Wild Rivers Conservancy will have the resources to be proactive, respond quickly to emerging threats, and continue to have an impact throughout the Riverway and watershed on a long-term basis to meet the challenges that future decades hold.


Wild Rivers Conservancy was founded in 1911 by civic leaders who recognized the need to steward the St. Croix River and its watershed. For the first 98 years of its history, Wild Rivers Conservancy efforts focused on river cleanups, river protection campaigns, and informational meetings led by volunteers. In 2009, Wild Rivers Conservancy hired their first staff and expanded stewardship efforts to address the growing threats to water quality and habitat.

In 2011, Wild Rivers Conservancy became the Friends Group for the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway, comprised of the St. Croix and the Namekagon rivers. Over the past eight years, Wild Rivers Conservancy has worked deliberately to target and prioritize conservation efforts which result in the greatest pollution reduction, land protection, and stewardship growth. Wild Rivers Conservancy has become the “go-to” group for addressing issues that affect the St. Croix.