Capital and Transaction Grant Opportunities
The Delaware River Watershed Protection Fund now has $12.1 million available to support land acquisition, and $100,000 for planning. No more than $2.42 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, before closing the capital grant will be reduced accordingly.
Transaction Grants are available to provide early support for either type of land protection project that is not yet ready to apply for a capital grant. Transaction Grants can cover the cost of one appraisal, title report and environmental assessment, as well as the cost of drafting a Farm Conservation Plan. Transaction Grants will be distributed within 2 weeks after the grant has been approved. It is expected that Transaction Grant grantees will complete their capital projects, either with subsequent support from the Fund or other sources. Within six months of grant approval, grant recipients must apply for a Capital Grant or demonstrate they are able to complete the project through other sources without the Fund’s support. Grantees that fail to meet the above conditions will be able to apply for support for transaction costs for a subsequent project subject to additional requirements. For projects that receive a Transaction Grant and later a Capital Grant, the Transaction Grant will be considered part of the total capital grant and subject to associated match requirements.
Capital and Transaction 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.
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.
Capital and Transaction Grants - Eligibility and Criteria
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 (large download))
- 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 a) only apply for funding for the portion of the property with 90% natural cover b) 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.
- Projects that lie partly outside a focus area are eligible if at least 60% of the project lies inside the focus area. However, in these cases only half the land value and match funding secured for the part of the project lying outside the focus area can be counted in project value and match. On a case-by-case basis, OSI will consider project outside of a DRWI Phase 2 focus area if the project is of exceptional significance to water quality in the cluster. Only one project of exceptional significance per cluster will be permitted in Phase 2.
To be eligible for a capital grant, projects must also meet the following requirements (not required for transaction grants):
- Meet or exceed Match Requirements.
- Meet or exceed 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 will evaluate eligible Forestland and Farm Buffer projects against the following criteria:
1) Cluster Performance Metrics: The extent to which the project furthers the cluster plan by advancing the performance metrics.
2) Aggregation of Impact: Extent to which the project builds on previous Delaware River Watershed Protection Fund land protection investments where 1) cumulative conservation can help prevent degradation in water quality, 2) adverse upstream activities do not override the ability to measure impacts at this site, and 3) the impact of the project can be effectively monitored. Preference shall be given to forestland projects located on or near exceptional or high quality streams and to farm buffer projects located on or near streams that are free from point source or urban/suburban run off issues.
3) Land Stewardship: Ability of the project to meet the Fund’s stewardship goals as demonstrated by: For Forestland projects, the conservation easement (CE) and proposed management regime are consistent with OSI’s CE standards, protect water bodies, prevent conversion of forest to other land uses and protect long term water quality. The steward’s primary management goals include water quality and they have sufficient staff capacity, experience and funding to manage the land for water quality. In addition, the ability of Farm Buffer projects to demonstrate that the CE is consistent with OSI standards, protects water bodies and addresses concentrated flow to water bodies on site. Buffers must be at least 100 feet wide and the landowner will implement a Farm Conservation Plan approved by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).
4) Conversion pressure: Type and extent of conversion pressure on the project and surrounding parcels based on current zoning, the Shippensburg DRB2070 development protection model, local development patterns and suitability of the land for development or agriculture.
5) 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, applicants fundraising plan and experience in fundraising and the applicants experience in completing land transactions, financial health and accreditation status.
6) Leverage: The extent to which the proposed transaction will secure sufficient outside funding to meet OSI’s financial match requirements.
7) Co-benefits to water quality: Additional benefits such as 1) contribution to the local economy through tourism, avoided storm water, or filtration costs, 2) contribution to reduction of flooding for downstream communities, 3) connecting conserved lands, and 4) protection of habitat for rare or sensitive plants and animals and/or climate resilience characteristics that benefit wildlife.
8) Catalytic potential: The project 1) catalyzes additional watershed protection projects, constituency, or funding, 2) illustrates the importance of water conservation and planning, and/or 3) demonstrates innovative approaches to watershed protection or conservation planning that can be applied elsewhere.
9) Partnership: Involves effective partnerships with other land trusts, conservation organizations and/or public agencies to leverage complementary skills to ensure successful project implementation.
OSI makes grants to qualified land conservation organizations through a competitive process with the assistance of an advisory committee of experts from the region with knowledge of hydrology, land protection, planning, natural resources, and philanthropy.
OSI staff and advisors 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 with a commitment to distribute at least $500,000 in each of the eligible clusters. No more than $2.42 million will be allocated for Farm Buffer grants. Transaction Grants are capped at $25,000, unless otherwise agreed upon with Fund staff. Catalyst Grants range from $10,000 to $35,000.
Conservation Easements and Stewardship Standards
To ensure permanent protection of the land’s natural resource values and maintain or enhance water quality, capital projects must meet the Fund’s Conservation Easement and Stewardship Standards. OSI staff will review conservation easement and/or management plan language prior to distribution of grant funds.
The Fund gives strong preference to capital projects with a 3:1 or greater financial match, i.e., for every dollar invested by the Fund there must be three other matching dollars. If two projects supported by the fund have been completed in a focus area, the match requirement for the third and subsequent projects will be lowered to 2.4:1 as an incentive to encourage aggregation of projects in focus areas.
Financial Match for Capital Projects
The Fund gives strong preference to capital projects with a 3:1 or greater financial match, i.e., for every dollar invested by the Fund there must be three other matching 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. No match is required for Transaction or Catalyst Grants.