We are happy to announce the 2022 Free Rivers Fund Grantees! We had more than 30 applications this year from all over the world - it is so exciting for us to read through these and to get to know all of these projects and activists fighting for their rivers. We are happy to be able to support a total of 7 grantees this year, thereof 5 brand new projects and 2 continued grants - check them out:
New projects 2022
One of the new projects we will support in 2022 are the Hudson Riverkeepers, who are working towards dam removal on the Hudson river and its tributaries (USA). They successfully pushed for removal of several damns in the past, have worked to restore habitat after the dams were removed and have built broad community support for more dam removal. In the Hudson River Estuary watershed there are more than 1,600 dams – most of them antiquated and obsolete - we hope we can support them in tearing some more of those down!
Another new grantee in 2022 is The Grand Salmon - a source-to-sea journey of the Salmon River (USA) with the goal of promoting the removal of the four Lower Snake River dams and a moratorium on the Stibnite Gold Mine Project in order to save the rapidly decreasing salmon populations from extinction. The three women will be kayaking and ski touring 1,000+ miles from the sources of the three primary tributaries to Idaho's Salmon River all the way to the Pacific Ocean. On their way they will trace and follow the natural outmigration of the anadromous fish, host community days and educational events and produce a film to tell the story of the Snake River Basin and the threats it is facing. The only thing we don't like about this project really is that we won't be part of this trip - but we are happy to support them either way!
We will also support a small group of activists from Montenegro fighting the construction of a mini-hydro power plant on the river Skrbuša. They have been fighting and protesting for their river since 2020 and have been successful so far in delaying construction. They are working towards the final termination of the contruction contracts and we are rooting for them to succeed!
Another new grantee in 2022 is Iván Morales from Veracruz, Mexico. For years now he has been fighting for his home river, the Antigua River Basin that is threatend my multiple massive hydropower projects. He has been informing the public about the problems of hydropower, building community support for the protection of this river and even published a whole book about the river and the proposed hydropower projects. In 2022 he is planning a trip down the river to visit the affected communities, inform them about planned dams and the threats they are facing and connect them with the conservation organizations that oppose the planned hydropower projects. He will photograph along the way to show the threatend ecosystems and the river's importance to the communities and to gain visual material to reinforce and support the arguments against the proposed dams.
Last but not least we will fund Marlène Devillez with her project Rivières les Sentinelles (France). The goal of this project is to educate about the threats our rivers are facing and to connect kayaking with river conservation and science. We are especially happy that she is doing all of this in French - as French rivers are threatend by a wave of hundreds of newly planned and approved hydropower projects and we need people like Marlène to inform, motivate, connect and nurse a wave of activists to oppose them!
We will continue the support for Mateusz Mazur from Poland, a grassroots activists working alongside the WWF Polska River Keepers fighting for the Łomnica River. He monitors this one and other rivers, reports pollution and illegal activities on rivers, catalogues and tracks migration barriers and educates the public. We were so impressed with how much he got done in 2021 while asking for only a little support from us - we are happy to continue the support and are excited to see what he will achieve this year.
We will also continue the support of Wolne Rzeki from Poland. They are protecting a number of pristine rivers, established a small nature reserve, are mapping and measuring artificial barriers and are working on weir removal. We are super impressed with their work so far and are excited to see how they will progress in 2022.
All in all we are impressed by not only the number but also the quality of applications this year and are especially excited to see more internation applications - which means the Free Rivers Fund becomes wider known and we are hopeful we will be able to support more river activists all over the world in the future.