Frequently Asked Questions
What is the Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance (RTCA) Program?
What types of assistance does the RTCA program provide?
Does the RTCA program give grants or funding?
How are RTCA projects typically organized?
How do I apply for assistance?
What RTCA work is happening in my community?
"Without RTCA's assistance, we would be years behind on trails planning and implementation. RTCA is an exceptional example of partnership." Bill Kiger, Chief of Interpretation, AK State Parks
What groups can partner with the RTCA program for assistance?
How can I tell if RTCA staff could help my local group with a conservation or recreation project?
Do RTCA staff decide what rivers or trails should be conserved?
Will RTCA own or manage the land?
Why does RTCA encourage local groups to include as many partners as possible
for each project?
What is "locally-led conservation"?
What is a facilitator and why is one crucial to a project's success?
Q. What is the Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance Program?
A. The Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance (RTCA) program is the community assistance branch of the National Park Service. RTCA staff work collaboratively, by invitation, to assist interested partners from across the United States in conserving rivers, preserving natural areas, or developing trails or greenways. RTCA measures its success by its ability to achieve on-the-ground results. On average, RTCA helps project partners protect more than 700 miles of rivers, create over 1,400 miles of trails, and conserve more than 63,700 acres of open space annually.
Watch a video about our work helping create healthier communities.
Q. What types of assistance does the RTCA program provide?
A. The RTCA program provides technical assistance to its project partners by: building partner relationships; helping partners define goals through consensus; developing conceptual, strategic, and workable project plans; helping the public participate in defining community goals; identifying potential sources of funding for project implementation; and teaching "hands-on" conservation and other technical skills necessary to successfully realize conservation and outdoor recreation projects. Assistance is provided for one year and may be renewed for a second year, if warranted. Read a project example.
Q. How do I apply for assistance?
A. Parties interested in applying for RTCA assistance should download the online application and guidelines from the RTCA national application page for more information.
Project applications are due annually on August 1st. Prospective applicants should contact their local RTCA office at least two weeks prior to applying for assistance to start the dialogue about a potential project application.
Q. How are RTCA projects typically organized?
A. Each RTCA project is organized differently based on individual project needs. However, typical RTCA efforts span a two-year period and include several steps:
• Recruitment of a strong local group of project leaders and stakeholders
• Identification of a group decision-making process
• Establishment of a group mission, vision and goals by consensus
• Definition of strong partner roles and responsibilities
• Implementation of a small-scale, highly visible demonstration effort
• The setting of achievable goals, recording of progress, and building momentum by celebrating small steps
Q. What RTCA work is happening in my community?
A. RTCA staff work in communities across the country, you can learn more about current efforts in your state on our state page.
Q. What groups can partner with the RTCA program for assistance?
A. Project partners may be non-profit organizations, community groups, tribes or tribal governments, and local, State, or federal government agencies. Federal agencies may be the lead partner only in collaboration with a nonfederal partner.
Conservation problems vary greatly, and so do the kinds of groups with whom RTCA works. Sometimes, RTCA staff even help to create concervation groups from several interested partner organizations.
Q. How can I tell if RTCA staff could help my local group with a conservation or recreation project?
A. RTCA staff are always available by telephone, mail, or e-mail, and are ready to discuss your project ideas or conservation challenge to determine if there might be a good match between your group's needs and RTCA's ability to help. It is highly recommended that your organization contact RTCA staff before applying for assistance. Contact your local RTCA staff for more information.
Q. Does the RTCA program give grants?
A. No, RTCA does not award monetary grants or loans. Instead, RTCA supplies a staff person with experience in community-based outdoor recreation and conservation to work with partners. If funding is necessary to achieve project goals, RTCA can often assist partners in identifying and securing sources of financial assistance.
Q. Do RTCA staff decide what rivers or trails should be conserved?
A. No. Local groups select the trails or rivers that they would like to conserve. These local groups then ask RTCA staff to join them to work on their local conservation project. The RTCA program uses a yearly application process to determine which projects are selected for assistance. Learn more about our application guidelines.
Q. Will RTCA own or manage the land?
A. No. The RTCA program does not own or manage any of the resources it helps local groups protect; that is the job of the local organization. RTCA staff can assist your organization in developing management goals and finding partners and funding sources for management activities, though.
Q. Why does RTCA encourage local groups to add as many partners as possible for each project?
A. RTCA defines partnerships as any group of individuals, communities, parks, governments, or organizations that collaborate and work together toward a common goal. Generally, the more partners involved in a project, the more perspectives, ideas, interests and resources are available for a successful final result. Dissenting opinions and perspectives are especially important to consider and resolve, as RTCA staff have found community consensus to produce the most successful projects. In addition to local partners, RTCA staff can help your group partner with our national partners for additional support.
Q.What is "locally-led conservation"?
A. Locally-led conservation places the responsibility for decision-making about conservation matters in the hands of the residents of the community. Believing that the best plans are made by local residents, the RTCA program supports those local groups whose projects offer extensive public involvement.
Q.What is a facilitator and why is one crucial to a project's success?
A. A facilitator helps groups with diverse interests reach consensus on a plan of action. Since most conservation projects cross several jurisdictions and involve numerous groups, they tend to be complex and need a good facilitator, especially as a project is just getting started.
RTCA staff are trained in facilitation and other techniques. As "outsiders" (e.g. not from the local area in which the local group or project is located), RTCA is uniquely poised to assume the role of facilitator, to insure that as many people from different parts of the community
-- citizen and business groups, local and state government agencies, etc. -- are involved as possible in helping reach consensus on a plan of action.