The forests that cover much of the land area of the northern half of the Delaware River Basin are largely responsible for the excellent quality of water that comes from the basin, which provides drinking water to 15 million people. Maintaining the health of the forests is therefore vitally linked to maintaining the quality of the water.
A new $1 million fund was announced on February 14 that will provide grants of up to $25,000 for qualified forest landowners to help them take steps that protect the forests. The Common Waters Fund grants can be used to help implement forest stewardship plans, watershed forestry management practices, and/or conservation easements over the next two years.
The first quarterly deadline for applying is May 2, and the first grants will be awarded in June. The grants will be available in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New York to landowners, qualified land trusts and timber harvesting operators.
Carol Collier, chair of the Pinchot Institute for Conservation, which administers the program, said, “We want to support landowners in these priority areas as they take important steps to maintain their forests over the long term.”
The initial financing for the fund comes from the United States Endowment for Forestry and Communities. Carlton Owen, president and CEO of the endowment, said, “Finding ways to incent private landowners to care for their forests today will help protect source water for years to come.”
“This is a terrific opportunity for landowners who care about the health of their forest,” said Sue Currier, executive director of the Delaware Highlands Conservancy, a partner in the Common Waters initiative. “We are looking for landowners who have always wanted to do right by their forests but couldn’t afford the upfront investment.”
Interested landowners should visit the website, www.commonwatersfund.org , to learn more about eligibility and program requirements and to download an application. They are also urged to contact their county coordinators: the Pike County Conservation District in Pike County, PA, the Wayne County Conservation District in Wayne County, PA and the Sullivan County Soil and Water Conservation District in Sullivan County, NY.
Uses for grants
• Forest Stewardship Plans: Forest owners can apply for funds to have a forester write a new or upgraded forest stewardship plan for their property.
• Forest Management Practices: Landowners can apply for funds to offset the costs of implementing certain forest management practices that will improve forest health and protect water quality.
• Conservation Easements: The Common Waters Fund will provide financial assistance to qualified 501(C)3 land trusts to assist with expenses related to placing a conservation easement on a property.
• Timber Bridges: Logging operators can apply for funds to defray the cost of construction, purchase, or rental of portable timber/skid bridges to minimize erosion and sedimentation on streams in priority areas.