Key Points

· Freshwater ecosystems are increasingly imperiled, and funders, nongovernmental organizations, community groups, and government agencies around the world are working to restore ecological function and resiliency to these critical resources.

· What does it take to structure, support, and implement truly effective, broad-scale watershed restoration? This article will describe the unconventional funding strategies catalyzing collective impact across multiple restoration groups working in a diverse set of watersheds and share the challenges and opportunities encountered while implementing these strategies.

· In Oregon, an experimental 10-year collaboration aimed at improving the health of the Willamette River system is being led by the Portland-based Meyer Memorial Trust with support from the Bonneville Environmental Foundation and the state-administered Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board. These groups are providing the “scaffolding” and supporting the distributed leadership needed to reverse the trajectory of change in the Willamette by aligning their grant programs around shared, science-based restoration priorities; identifying and filling key capacity needs of local watershed groups and land trusts; and facilitating more and better collaboration in restoration planning, implementation, and monitoring.

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