Launched in 2014, the Delaware River Watershed Protection Fund of the Open Space Institute seeks to ensure abundant, clean water through support for land protection and improved land use planning as part of the broader Delaware River Watershed Initiative, a coordinated effort involving sixty-five organizations working together to protect and restore clean water in the Delaware River watershed. Since the launch of the fund, OSI has approved Capital Grants totaling $8.9 million for forty-seven projects that will preserve more than 22,000 acres of land. These projects are expected to protect 110 miles of forested stream banks, 22,180 acres of headwaters, 7,685 acres of stream buffers, and 3,600 acres of wetlands.
To advance its mission, Open Space is inviting applications for the purchase of land and easements to protect important watershed lands 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.
Through the Fund, OSI provides three types of grants: Capital Grants for the purchase of land and easements to permanently protect important watershed lands; Transaction Grants to jump start land conservation efforts; and Catalyst Grants to integrate water quality science into open space and other regional plans to accelerate watershed protection by state, county, and municipal governments. (Download this Catalyst Grant program summary for more information and to apply for a Catalyst grant.)
Although there is no minimum or maximum grant size, grant awards typically range between $75,000 and $450,000. OSI will distribute at least $500,000 in each of the eligible clusters.
The fund has a strong preference to capital projects with a 3:1 or greater financial match, and grants and (in some cases) land can serve as the match.
See the Open Space Institute website for complete program guidelines application instructions, a list of previously funded projects, and a map of the geographic focus areas.