Delaware River Watershed Protection Fund: Capital Grants

Open Space Institute

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

Next deadline: Apr 1, 2020 2:00pm PDT

Later deadlines: Jul 25, 2020 2:00pm PDT

Applicant type: Nonprofit

Funding uses: Project / Program, Capital Project

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

Location of residency: United States

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About this funder:



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 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.

The Delaware River Watershed Protection Fund now has $12 million available to support land acquisition; not more than $2.4 million will be allocated for Farm Buffer Grants.

Forestland and Farm Buffer Grants cover a portion of the cost of purchasing land or easements and may also cover transaction 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 transaction expenses are defrayed by another source before closing, 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.


  • To be eligible for capital or transaction grants, projects must meet the following requirements:
    • Be located in an eligible Phase 2 focus area.
      • To identify whether a project is located in an eligible geography, download (1) the Map and Data Guide and (2) check your parcel location with the data in FieldDoc or the OSI Map Package (large download, unchanged from 2018).
      • 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.
      • Note: On a case-by-case basis, OSI will consider projects outside of a DRWI Phase 2 focus area if the cluster organizations determine the project is of exceptional significance to water quality. Only one such project per cluster will be permitted in Phase 2.
    • Achieve permanent protection through fee purchase of land or a conservation easement.
    • At least 90% of the project and 90% of the area within 100 feet of water bodies must be in natural land cover.
      • Qualifying land cover excludes mowing or grazing or other disturbances that would prevent forest regrowth.
      • Projects with natural cover below the threshold must either
        • apply for funding only for the portion of the property with 90% natural cover, or
        • 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.
    • The applicant must be a member of a DRWI cluster or be pre-approved by the William Penn Foundation and/or cluster partners.
    • 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.
  • Forestland and Farm Buffer Capital grant projects must also meet these additional eligibility requirements (not required for transaction grants). 
    • Meet the Match Requirements.
    • Meet OSI Conservation Easement and Stewardship Standards for water quality, and
    • Must be completed within 18 months of receiving notification of OSI’s grant award.
  • Capital Grant Criteria
    • OSI evaluates eligible Forestland and Farm Buffer projects against the following Grant criteria:
      • Cluster Performance Metrics: The extent to which the project furthers the cluster plan by advancing the performance metrics.
      • Aggregation of Impact: Extent to which the project builds on previous Delaware River Watershed Protection Fund land protection projects.
      • Land Stewardship: Degree to which the project meets the Fund’s stewardship goals for the grant fund. See OSI Conservation Easement and Stewardship Standards.
      • Conversion pressure: Type and extent of conversion pressure on the project and surrounding parcels
      • Transaction Feasibility: Likelihood that the project will succeed and close on time based on: status of negotiations, purchase agreement and due diligence; funding secured for the project; applicant’s fundraising plan and experience in fundraising; and the applicants experience in completing land transactions, financial health and accreditation status.
      • Leverage: The extent to which the proposed transaction will secure sufficient funding to meet or exceed OSI’s financial match requirements.
      • Co-benefits to water quality: Additional benefits of the project such as flood reduction, habitat protection, landscape connectivity, partnership building, ecotourism or new financing mechanisms


  • 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.