Delaware Watershed Land Protection Fund

Photo Credit: Jerry Monkman

Delaware River Watershed Protection Fund   

Delaware Watershed Map Catalyst and Capital 2015 Download pdf of map    

Program Overview

The Delaware River Watershed Protection Program seeks to ensure abundant, clean water within the 13,000-square-mile drainage of the Delaware River. The initiative supports efforts in eight watershed clusters to protect and restore water quality and is capitalized with a $10.2 million grant from the William Penn Foundation.

OSI uses three primary strategies to achieve its objectives in the watershed:

  • Capital grants for permanent protection of land that ensures the ability to produce clean, abundant water;
  • Catalyst grants for planning, analysis and communication that result in tangible outcomes that accelerate permanent conservation for water resources; and,
  • Translation of hydrological concepts for permanent conservation, including development of datasets that identify critical water resources for land protection.

Capital Grants

The Delaware River Watershed Protection Fund supports capital projects that permanently protect lands that conserve water quality and quantity in the Delaware River watershed. The Fund invests in land conservation projects that

1) are located in watersheds that have the ability to produce high quality ground and/or surface water,

2) contribute to water quality through protection of streams, headwaters and other important recharge areas, and

3) protect sites that are vulnerable to erosion and ground water pollution.

Through the projects supported through the Fund, OSI seeks to raise the visibility of watershed conservation issues in the Delaware River Basin and to attract additional funding for priority acquisition projects. OSI further supports efforts that promote and pilot innovative conservation financing tools and that test and advance emerging watershed protection practices.

OSI makes grants and loans to qualified land conservation organizations through a competitive process with the assistance of an advisory board comprised of experts from the region with knowledge of hydrology, land protection, planning, natural resources, and philanthropy.

Delaware Watershed Catalyst Planning Grants

The Delaware River Watershed Initiative (DRWI) aims to ensure that watersheds can provide high quality and sufficient water quantity for healthy ecosystems and human communities. As part of the DRWI, in addition to providing capital grants to protect important watershed lands, OSI awards grants for conservation and open space planning to further water resource protection by state, county and municipal governments. Successful applicants will work with local and regional government agencies to integrate water quality into strategic planning such as Open Space Plans, ordinances or other mechanisms for protection. While the projects may have broader purposes, OSI funds should be used for the portion of a planning project that informs permanent protection of water resources.

OSI awards DRWI catalyst grants ranging from $10,000 to $35,000 to eligible not-for-profit conservation and educational organizations (501(c)(3)). While public agencies are not eligible to apply for funding, OSI encourages proposals that include partnerships with public sector entities. Please note that projects need not be confined to the DRWI clusters but can be located anywhere in the Delaware River Basin.

For a recent example, view the case study featuring Land Conservancy of New Jersey’s successful completion of a water resource protection strategy as part of Sussex County’s 2016 Open Space Plan with funding from the Catalyst Planning Fund.

Applications for catalyst grants will be accepted between December 15, 2016 and March 1, 2017. You can access the RFP here. Online application can be accessed here.


Geographic Focus

Funds may be used only for projects in the Delaware River watershed. OSI’s funding is targeted to eight clusters of sub-watersheds, constituting approximately 25 percent of the total Delaware River Basin across three states. Analysis has shown that investment in these targeted efforts to protect or improve water quality in specific streams and rivers could deliver significant returns. 

OSI makes Capital grants in five clusters where protecting forestland is critical to ensuring water quality:

Pocono and Kittatinny
Upper Lehigh,
Schuylkill Highlands,
Kirkwood-Cohansey and
New Jersey Highlands

Catalyst Grants can occur in any part of the Delaware River Basin.

Cluster Map

Program Eligibility and Grant Criteria

Capital Grants may be used to acquire permanent conservation easements and fee interest in land. Grants may also be applied to cover transactional costs, including cost of appraisals, surveys, title, environmental assessments and non-staff legal expenses, with the latter not to exceed 2% of the parcel’s Fair Market Value.

Grant funds may not be used for endowments, stewardship costs, staff time, fundraising, or other non-capital project expenses.

To be eligible for funding, capital projects must meet all of the Fund’s eligibility criteria detailed here.

Please note that OSI’s capital grants focus primarily on forested landscapes. In 2015, OSI created a pilot program for funding permanent protection of riparian buffers on active farms in cooperation with NFWF. This pilot round has been completed but OSI may provide additional funding rounds. For more information contact Bill Rawlyk.   

Grant Awards

OSI staff and the Fund’s Advisory Committee review and make recommendations on all grant applications.      

Although there is no minimum or maximum grant size, capital awards are typically between $75,000 and $450,000 and catalyst grants range from $10,000 to $30,000.

Through the next two grant rounds, OSI will award the remaining $3.75 million in capital land protection grants. It is anticipated that, overall, a minimum of $500,000 will be awarded to qualified projects in each cluster with the remaining funds to be granted to conservation transactions of the greatest need and opportunity across the target watershed clusters.

The Fund also makes short-term low-interest loans to bridge gaps in public or private funding. Learn more about OSI's Loan Program here.

Standards For Conservation Easements and Land Stewardship

Conservation easements and stewardship of funded projects should ensure protection of the land’s natural resource values and maintain or enhance water quality. Capital projects must meet the Fund’s conservation easement and land stewardship standards and guidelines. [download pdf of standards]

OSI staff will review conservation easement and/or management plan language prior to distribution of grant funds to ensure that the project meets the Fund’s stewardship goals.

Financial Match

For this Fund, OSI gives strong preference to capital projects with a 3:1 or greater financial match (each dollar from the Fund is matched by three other dollars). Donations, grants and, in some cases, land can serve as match. Prior to grant distribution, grantees must provide a detailed accounting of all matching sources. Full details on match requirements are provided here.

Application Process and Deadlines

All applications must be submitted through OSI’s online application form. To apply click here. Applications are due by December 8, 2016 at 5 pm.   

We encourage applicants to contact Bill Rawlyk, OSI’s Mid-Atlantic Field Coordinator, before preparing a Capital grant proposal. For Catalyst Grants contact Abigail Weinberg, OSI Research Director.

To complete the application, applicants must download the GIS Map Package and Guide. The Guide provides detailed steps for assessing the project’s conservation value and examples of the maps that applicants are required to produce. For assistance with the map package or with GIS please contact Neil Jordan.

To be notified about future grant rounds, please sign up here.   


Please register HERE for Delaware River Watershed Protection Fund Round IV Applicant Webinar. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.


Capital Grants:
Bill Rawlyk, Mid-Atlantic Field Coordinator

General information and application assistance:
Yasemin Unal-Rodriguez

Science, Data and Catalyst Grants
Abigail Weinberg

GIS Assistance
Neil Jordan


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