Chesapeake Bay Land and Water Initiative Grants

Land Trust Alliance

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Grant amount: US $10,000 - US $30,000

Anticipated deadline: Dec 9, 2019 2:00pm PST (Letter of inquiry)

Applicant type: Nonprofit

Funding uses: Project / Program, Education / Outreach

Location of project: Delaware, Counties in Maryland: Allegany County, Baltimore County, Caroline County, Carroll County Show all

Location of residency: United States

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Chesapeake Bay Land and Water Initiative

The Chesapeake Bay Land and Water Initiative (the Initiative), a program of the Land Trust Alliance and the Chesapeake Bay Funders Network (CBFN), provides grant support, policy, communications, partnership building and training resources to organizations working to preserve land and protect water quality in the Chesapeake watershed.

Connecting Land Conservation and Water Quality

Watershed advocates often say that “what happens on land ends up in the water.” The Chesapeake Bay region is home to nearly 18 million people, and the way we care for the land will help — or hurt — our waters. The Initiative works to connect land conservation and water quality, better caring for our lands and our waters.

At the Chesapeake Bay Land and Water Initiative, we encourage partnerships between land trusts, watershed groups, local governments and others. Through our competitive grant program, we provide financial and capacity resources to accelerate good work already underway and prioritize new conservation and stewardship projects for water and land. On a bigger scale, we work to improve the regional context for this work — through policy, communications, science and more — so that land trusts have better tools to do more for clean water.

Land trusts are in a powerful position to improve the health of our waters. These organizations manage long-lasting landowner relationships, maintain a strong connection to private lands, and protect, steward and restore land throughout the Chesapeake Bay region. This unique capacity allows land trusts to deliver the benefits of clean water in places and ways that no one else can. While more land trusts are engaging in such work all the time in their service areas, the Initiative is building capacity to expand and sustain water-focused land conservation and stewardship across the watershed.

We envision a healthy Chesapeake watershed that uses permanent land protection and stewardship to ensure clean water for future generations. Everyone has a role to play in keeping local rivers and streams a healthy place to drink, swim, fish and paddle, and the Initiative is working to help land trusts, partner organizations and landowners protect land and water quality for years to come.

Chesapeake Bay Land and Water Initiative Grant Program

The Chesapeake Bay Land and Water Initiative (the Initiative) administers an annual grant program to support projects that will accelerate land conservation and stewardship to protect and restore water quality in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, and is currently focused on these initial watersheds.

Since its first grants in 2017, the Initiative’s grant program has provided more than half a million dollars in project support. Twenty-two grants have been awarded to 18 projects, including efforts to plan, prioritize and implement new land conservation and restoration projects and to strengthen partnerships and collaboration in priority watersheds. We have contracted with the Chesapeake Conservancy’s Conservation Innovation Center to provide subsidized GIS support and analysis services to grantees, to ensure their work is as targeted and impactful as possible by using the latest mapping technology and decision-support tools. 

The Chesapeake Bay Land and Water Initiative (Initiative) is a partnership between the Chesapeake Bay Funders Network and the Land Trust Alliance to advance private land conservation and stewardship that protects and restores water quality in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. The Initiative seeks to support projects consistent with this goal through its competitive grant program in 2018-2019.

The Initiative’s competitive grant program makes strategic, targeted investments in land trusts, watershed groups, and other conservation partners to accelerate permanent land conservation and stewardship on conserved land with a meaningful impact on water quality.

Project Criteria and Examples

The protection and/or restoration of water quality and a strong link with permanently protected private land are primary criteria for this grant program. All projects must demonstrate a meaningful impact on water quality to be eligible, and, where possible, provide measurable, verifiable results. They must also ultimately lead to new permanently protected private land (in the case of land conservation projects), or take place on permanently protected private land (in the case of stewardship/restoration projects).

We seek projects that:

  • Prioritize, promote, and incentivize private land conservation and stewardship activities that best protect, improve, or enhance water quality and have potential to serve as replicable models in other parts of the watershed;
  • support or build collaborative, diverse partnerships among land trusts; watershed groups; purchase of development rights (PDR) programs; local, state, and federal governments; and other partners that collectively help achieve land protection and stewardship goals;
  • promote new or emerging projects/ideas that reflect creative problem solving and are positioned to have greater impact with additional resources;
  • create or support cross-cutting programs linking elements such as innovative science-based planning, community engagement, creative or new financing programs/policies, and/or ecosystem services; and/or
  • provide the best opportunities to leverage CBFN members’ and other funders’ current investments in initial landscapes, and other financial resources, knowledge, expertise and staff capacity.

Projects must meet at least one, and preferably several, of these criteria to be successful in this process.

We anticipate that community-based outreach and conservation activities that increase understanding of and build public support for land protection and stewardship for their benefit to water quality may be integrated into the above types of projects. However, projects focused on community outreach or communications alone are not a good fit for this program.

We do not fund land acquisition through this program, although funding for due diligence costs of strategic land protection projects with direct water quality benefits is possible.

The most successful grant requests in the first two years of the grant program were able to describe significant benefits for water quality and many included science-based land conservation planning and implementation and/or stewardship and restoration activities as a focus.

What we have learned from previous grant rounds

In the first two years of the program, we granted $325,000 to support projects now underway by fourteen successful applicants and their partners. Four projects are in Pennsylvania, four in Maryland, five in Virginia, and one in West Virginia. To date, these projects include efforts like:

  • watershed-based conservation planning/prioritization,
  • restoration project planning and implementation for easement lands,
  • multi-stakeholder drinking water protection efforts, and
  • new partnerships to leverage existing farmland preservation capacity and networks.

What is innovative for one applicant may be “business as usual” for another. We seek to fund projects that help each grantee expand its work on water quality—taking a new approach not previously taken or building new partnerships needed to work in a new way. As such, we will assess our “innovation” criterion on a project-by-project and organization-by-organization basis, as well as for the field of land conservation more broadly.

This program also asks applicants to develop a more strategic approach to water quality, recognizing that “not all acres are created equal.” Beyond simply working on a riparian property, for example, we will want to know why a particular property or project is the right one, in the right place, for the right reasons.

In the past, it has been helpful—both for us and for prospective applicants—to discuss project ideas prior to the deadline. These discussions helped strengthen project alignment with the grant program’s goals and/or helped save applicants’ time by discouraging poorly fitting projects that would not have been competitive. We encourage you to give us a call!

You can learn more about this opportunity by visiting the funder's website.


  • In the first year of this program, grants will be limited to projects in these initial sub-watersheds
    • Upper Susquehanna watersheds
    • Lower Susquehanna watersheds
    • Juniata watershed
    • Upper Potomac watershed
    • Shenandoah watershed
    • Rapidan/Rappahannock watershed
    • Eastern Shore watersheds
  • This grant program is open to land trusts, watershed associations, advocacy groups, and other nongovernmental organizations operating in the above sub-watersheds.
  • Successful applicants must have a proven track record and demonstrate the commitment and capacity to achieve near-term success in one or more of the project interests described here.



  • Public agencies are not eligible for funding, but partnerships with local, state, and federal partners are strongly encouraged.