$100K available for students focused on watershed protection

The Santa Clara River. Courtesy of Friends of Santa Clara River.

News release 

An alliance of cultural and environmental organizations has launched fellowships and scholarships worth $100,000 for students committed to the protection of Southern California’s signature river, known in the Santa Clarita Valley as the Santa Clara River.  

The Utom Conservation Fund Scholarship and Fellowship, announced on Earth Day, will be awarded to high school seniors, undergraduate and graduate school students committed to researching and preserving the cultural values and ecological function of the Utom watershed. 

Utom, or Phantom River, was named by the Chumash people because water flow can come and go like a phantom. Also known as the Santa Clara River, the 116-mile-long river flows from the Angeles National Forest in northern Los Angeles County to the Pacific Ocean near Oxnard in Ventura County. It is the largest Southern California watershed that is still in a relatively natural state and features rich biodiversity. California red-legged frogs, unarmored threespine sticklebacks and more than 110 special-status plants and animals rely on Utom. 

“The Utom River is a true California gem, and we want to inspire the next generation of environmental activists and leaders,” said Peter Galvin, cofounder and director of programs at the Center for Biological Diversity. “These scholarships are geared to students who share our passion for protecting a vulnerable, precious river that benefits local communities and wildlife.” 

“After nearly three decades of Wishtoyo’s ongoing work protecting and preserving the cultural integrity of the Utom watershed on behalf of the human communities, the wildlife, and river itself, we are excited to help support the next generation of water protectors from this area,” said Mati Waiya, founder and executive director of Wishtoyo Chumash Foundation. “It is especially important for these upcoming scholars to be people from Utom’s local underserved community and from the First People of these unceded homelands, including those from federally unrecognized tribes.” 

The scholarship and fellowship fund is managed by the Center, Wishtoyo Chumash Foundation, Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians and the California Native Plant Society. There are two different types of funds; both have a June 20 deadline. 

There will be 25 scholarships worth $2,000 each awarded to incoming high school seniors and undergraduate students from junior colleges or four-year universities. Applicants should be passionate about protecting the environment and the Utom watershed. 

The fellowships are for graduate students pursuing a master’s degree or doctorate in an environmental field and planning on a research project specific to the Utom watershed. There will be scholarships worth $12,500 each awarded to four graduate students. 

Special consideration will be given to tribal members, including those from unrecognized tribes. 

“Native Americans were the original stewards of these lands, so our tribe is proud to help fund this scholarship and inspire the next wave of students who care about the environment,” said Kenneth Kahn, tribal chairman for the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians. “We believe it’s important to encourage students to learn about and protect the Utom River with its rich Chumash heritage.” 

The Utom Conservation Fund was established with settlement money from litigation to protect this unique watershed. Visit UtomRiverConservation.org for more information about the scholarships and the application process. 

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