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Rivers Conservation Grants

DCNR’s Bureau of Recreation and Conservation’s rivers conservation grants focus on protecting and enhancing the conservation or recreation value of Pennsylvania’s waterways. 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
  • Riparian forest buffers

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
  • TreeVitalize program
  • 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.

Riparian Forest Buffer Funding

DCNR is leading a broad initiative to increase riparian forest buffer establishment statewide, including providing grants to install riparian forest buffers along waterways in Pennsylvania, including providing grants to install riparian forest buffers along waterways in Pennsylvania.

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 to providing wildlife habitat and cooling water temperatures

DCNR supports both conventional riparian forest buffers and multifunctional buffers. Multi-functional buffers (PDF) provide benefits beyond conservation.

In Pennsylvania, landowners and partners are encouraged to consider buffers that provide opportunities for harvesting products, such as:

  • Nuts
  • Berries
  • Woody florals
  • Forbs

Applicants are encouraged to include the multifunctional riparian forest buffer concept in their proposed project funding request.

Eligible projects for Riparian Forest Buffer Program funding include:

  • Landowner outreach
  • Buffer design
  • Site preparation and buffer installation
  • Plant materials and tree shelters
  • Post-planting establishment (approximately three years)

Riparian Forest Buffer Grant Requirements

  • The minimum grant award is $50,000.
  • Funds provided by DCNR may not exceed 50 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 project must be willing to enter into a landowner agreement (PDF) with each participating landowner for a minimum of 25 years. Conservation easements also may be considered as a form of landowner agreement.
More information on Riparian Forest Buffer Grants