OSI Delaware River Watershed Protection Fund: Capital Grants

Open Space Institute

Grant amount: US $75,000 - US $450,000

Next anticipated deadline: May 31, 2019

Later anticipated deadlines: Aug 18, 2019 2:00pm PDT

Applicant type: Nonprofit

Funding uses: Applied Project / Program, Capital Project

Location of project: Counties in New Jersey: Atlantic County, Burlington County, Camden County, Cape May County, Cumberland County Expand all

Location of residency: United States

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Why Delaware River Watershed Protection Fund

Draining 13 million acres across four states, the Delaware River is the source of drinking water for 15 million people, a web of diverse plant and animal life, a recreational destination, and the foundation of the region’s economy.

The river has become much cleaner since the 1970s, after the federal Clean Water Act regulated major pollution sources, like sewage and factory waste. But today contamination still enters the watershed from thousands of smaller sources, carried into streams and groundwater by runoff from roads, construction sites, suburbs, cities, farms, and logged and mined lands (see white paper, Investing in Strategies to Accelerate Conservation and Measure Impact in the Delaware River Watershed).

Launched in 2014, the Delaware River Watershed Fund seeks to ensure abundant, clean water through support of land protection and improved land use planning, as part of the broader Delaware River Watershed Initiative, a coordinated effort involving 65 organizations working together to protect and restore clean water in the Delaware River watershed. The Initiative, generously supported by the William Penn Foundation and now entering a second phase, supports land protection, restoration and water quality monitoring in eight regions of the watershed. The William Penn Foundation has also commissioned an assessment of the contribution of capital investments in protection and restoration to ensure water quality.

Through the Fund, OSI provides three types of grants. Detailed on this page are: 

  • Capital Grants for the purchase of land and easements to permanently protect important watershed lands;

Capital Grants

The Delaware River Watershed Protection Fund now has $11.7 million available to support land acquisition, and $100,000 for planning. No more than $2.3 million will be allocated for Farm Buffer Grants.

The Fund makes two types of capital grants. For parcels that are currently, or will be restored to, at least 90% natural cover, applicants can apply for a Forestland Capital Grant. Farm Buffer Capital Grants support protection of the forested areas along the streams of active farms that are either permanently protected or will be protected.

Forestland and Farm Buffer Grants cover a portion of the cost of purchasing land or easements and may also cover transactional costs, including cost of appraisals, surveys, title, Farm Conservation plans, environmental assessments and non-staff legal expenses, with the latter not to exceed 2% of the parcel’s Fair Market Value. If such expenses are defrayed later by another source, the capital grant will be reduced accordingly. 

Geographic Focus

The Fund awards capital grants for land protection in designated focus areas within the following five watershed clusters:

  • Pocono and Kittatinny;
  • Upper Lehigh;
  • Schuylkill Highlands;
  • Kirkwood-Cohansey; and
  • New Jersey Highlands.

One project in each cluster but outside of the focus areas may be eligible for funding if it is of exceptional significance to water quality in the cluster.

Grant Awards

Although there is no minimum or maximum grant size, Capital awards are typically between $75,000 and $450,000 with a commitment to distribute at least $500,000 in each of the eligible clusters. No more than $1.9 million will be allocated for Farm Buffer grants. 

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


  • OSI makes grants to qualified land conservation organizations
  • To be eligible for capital or transaction grants, projects must meet the following requirements:
    • Located in cluster Phase 2 focus areas (To identify whether a project is located in an eligible geography, download (1) the Map Guide and (2) Map Package.
    • Be a member of a DRWI cluster or be pre-approved by the William Penn Foundation and/or cluster partners.
    • Achieve permanent protection through fee purchase of land or a conservation easement.
    • Be spearheaded by an organization with the capacity and financial ability to execute the transaction and ensure long-term stewardship and management of the property consistent with the Fund’s objectives.
    • Be 90% or more in natural land cover across the property and specifically within 100 feet of all water bodies connected to streams.
      • Qualifying land cover must exclude mowing or grazing or other disturbances that would prevent forest regrowth.
      • Projects with natural cover below this threshold must either
        • only apply for funding for the portion of the property with 90% natural cover
        • demonstrate that 90% or more of the area will revert to qualifying land cover. 
    • Impacts from upstream pollutant sources and surrounding land uses do not override the project’s contribution to water quality.
    • Forestland Projects must be in a DRWI Phase 2 focus area with land protection as an approved strategy.
    • Farm Buffer Projects must be in a DRWI Phase 2 focus area with land protection or restoration as an approved strategy.
    • On a case-by-case basis, OSI will consider a project outside of a DRWI Phase 2 focus area if the project is of exceptional significance to water quality in the cluster. 
  •  To be eligible for a capital grant, projects must also meet the following requirements


  • For this Fund, OSI gives strong preference to capital projects with a 3:1 or greater financial match.


  • Capital grant funds may not be used to pay interest on loans, staff time, mileage, travel expenses or general overhead.
  • Note also that projects which close before the proposal deadline are not eligible for funding. 

About this funder:

View past grantees & full 990 summary