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Rivers Conservation, Community and Watershed Forestry Grants

DCNR’s Bureau of Recreation and Conservation’s Rivers Conservation and Community and Watershed Forestry Grants focus on protecting and enhancing the conservation or recreation value of Pennsylvania’s waterways.

Rivers Conservation Grants

Rivers program funding supports water-based outdoor recreation and water resource conservation activities at all stages of project development.

Grants for rivers projects are available through the Community Conservation Partnerships Program.

Rather than applying for funding through a “Rivers” grant category, applications are submitted under the appropriate primary grant category as listed below:

  • Land acquisition
  • Planning
  • Rehabilitation or development
  • Partnerships
  • Community and Watershed Forestry

Land Acquisition and Conservation Funding

Land acquisition and conservation funding projects include fee-simple purchases or easements of land for the primary purpose of waterway conservation.

The area of land should include waterway segments or environmentally significant watershed features.

Examples of river-related acquisitions include:

  • Land protection of headwaters
  • Conservation of land that includes a class A coldwater fishery

While these grants are requested through the Land Acquisition and Conservation grant application, applicants have an opportunity to indicate that the project is a rivers project.

Community Recreation and Conservation Planning Funding

River-related planning grants fund regional or site-based planning documents that address a water-based recreation or conservation need.

While many diverse and unique plans are funded, the most common rivers plans are rivers conservation plans and master site development plans.

These grants are requested through the Community Recreation and Conservation Planning grant application.

Master Site Development Plans

Master site development plans are site-specific and lead to a size, type, and location plan for the full development or redevelopment of a site for water-based recreation or aquatic conservation.

Rivers Conservation Plans

Rivers Conservation Plans are comprehensive watershed or water corridor-based studies that lead to the development of a long-term management program for the study area.

For a listing of Rivers Conservation Plans in Pennsylvania, explore the Rivers Registry (PDF).

Park Rehabilitation and Development Funding

These projects undertake physical improvements to waterways that restore and enhance the cultural, ecological, and recreational aspects of the resource.

Examples of water-related development projects include:

  • River access
  • Floodplain restoration
  • Water trail enhancements

These grants are requested through the Park Rehabilitation and Development or Non-Motorized Trail grant application, as appropriate.

State and Regional Partnerships Funding

These projects are collaborative statewide or regional projects that:

  • Convene, educate, or train partners
  • Build capacity
  • Undertake special purpose studies or implementation projects
  • Offer mini-grants to grassroots organizations

Examples of water-related partnerships projects include:

  • Management of a water trail
  • Conservation training
  • Providing mini-grant funding to watershed groups for local plan implementation

These grants are requested through the State and Regional Partnerships grant application.

Community and Watershed Forestry Funding

The DCNR Community and Watershed Forestry Program aims to improve local water quality and wildlife habitat, and increase community resiliency through the installation of sustainable forest practices.

The program provides financial assistance to identify locations in need of riparian forest buffers, lawn conversion, and urban tree-planting; and to design, implement, and establish those practices.

The practices can be installed on both public and private property.

This program supports projects that produce conventional buffers and multi-functional buffers.

Conventional riparian buffers are the trees, shrubs, and grasses planted along waterways that help protect water quality.

Buffers improve the health and diversity of local ecosystems by:

  • Filtering pollutants
  • Improving bank stability
  • Reducing erosion and flooding
  • Providing wildlife habitat and cooling water temperatures

Multi-functional buffers (PDF) provide benefits beyond conservation by offering an opportunity to harvest products in addition to the conventional buffer of riparian tree and shrub species.

In Pennsylvania, typical products included in multi-functional buffers are nuts, berries, woody florals, forbs, and potentially woody biomass.

The program also provides funding to promote and facilitate the conversion of presently maintained lawn to actively managed upland forest (300 feet or further away from a waterbody) or perennial native meadow.

Eligible applicants requesting TreeVitalize funding should apply under this program.

Each grant requires a 20 percent match (cash or non-cash match is accepted). Eligible project costs for the Community and Watershed Forestry Program funding include:

  • Targeted landowner outreach
  • Project design
  • Materials
  • Labor (hired or grantee staff)
  • Site preparation
  • Post-planting establishment
  • Tree Tender training
  • Short-term stewardship/training

Community and Watershed Grant Requirements

  • The minimum grant award is $50,000.
  • Funds provided by DCNR may not exceed 80 percent of the approved project cost.
  • Local match can include cash and/or non-cash (volunteer, donation, in-kind) sources.
  • Minimum buffer width is 15 feet. Applicants are strongly encouraged to implement an average buffer width of 35 feet or more.
  • Applicants who undertake a buffer or lawn conversion project must be willing to enter into a Riparian Planting Habitat Restoration Agreement (PDF) with each participating landowner for a minimum of 25 years. Conservation easements also may be considered as a form of landowner agreement.