On August 31, 2023, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) announced 36 grant awards totaling over $14.9 million to improve wildlife habitat, enhance resilience to changing climatic conditions, and engage communities throughout the Delaware River watershed in restoration and conservation activities.
Funding includes more than $4.5 million from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law for six projects aimed at improving public access, recreational opportunities and water quality, as well as enhancing shoreline and critical habitat.
This year’s grant slate is the second to include funds from the law, which was enacted in November 2021 and includes an historic $26 million investment in the watershed over five years.
“This year’s 36 grants will allow our grantees and their partners to implement projects that benefit communities, fish, and wildlife and continue the remarkable progress made over the past decades for a healthier, cleaner, and more resilient Delaware River watershed,” said Jeff Trandahl, executive director and CEO of NFWF.
“The Delaware River’s diverse watershed, which flows through nearly 330 miles of the mid-Atlantic region, is both a source of drinking water for more than 15 million people and provides vital habitat for important wildlife species, including threatened red knots and vulnerable saltmarsh sparrow, forest birds rebounding from decline, as well as previously abundant fish such as river herring, American shad and eastern brook trout,” he added.
These grants were awarded through the Delaware Watershed Conservation Fund (DWCF), funded by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, with additional support this year from the William Penn Foundation and AstraZeneca.
A total of $14.9 million, up from $14 million in 2022, will fund projects in four priority areas: reducing flooding and runoff, restoring fish and wildlife habitats, improving water quality, and enhancing safe public recreational access.
“Thanks to support from President Biden’s Investing in America agenda, these 36 projects in Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York will boost local economies and address needs for natural resources while helping tackle the climate crisis,” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Martha Williams, who delivered remarks at the announcement event.
“By addressing conservation and resiliency needs head-on, we demonstrate the necessity and importance of caring for lands and waters and for those who share a connection to the watershed. Whether a project restores habitat, replaces a decaying culvert, or improves outdoor access, the positive impacts allow fish, wildlife and people to thrive,” she continued.
These new awards will improve more than 1000 acres of forest habitat through improved management, reconnect nearly 30 acres of floodplain, plant over 17,000 trees, and open more than 1227 acres to public access.
The projects will also help advance the goals of the Delaware River Basin Conservation Act, NFWF’s Delaware Watershed Business Plan, and the Delaware River Watershed Initiative.
The grant awards include:
- (Delaware) $202,102 to the Delaware Nature Society to install 27 community garden and pollinator habitat projects and build resiliency in under-resourced areas in Wilmington, Delaware;
- (New Jersey) $415,865 to Ducks Unlimited, working in partnership with the New Jersey Natural Resources Conservation Service, to provide conservation technical assistance and best management practice planning, enrollment and participation in voluntary conservation programs, and the implementation of agricultural best management practices on 10,000 acres in Southern New Jersey;
- (New York) $75,000 to the Town of Tusten to create an open space and recreation plan to improve public access opportunities and identify preservation and conservation needs within the town; and
- (Pennsylvania) $1.5 million from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to the Fairmount Park Conservancy to create and enhance fish and wildlife habitat, provide new public access and opportunities for water-based recreation, and increase climate resiliency in Philadelphia’s FDR Park.
The Delaware Watershed Conservation Fund, created in 2018, is funded by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to achieve the goals of the Delaware River Basin Conservation Act. The Act guides and supports federal, state, regional, and local partners to collaboratively identify, prioritize, and implement habitat restoration and conservation activities within the watershed.
The Delaware River watershed covers 13,539 square miles of land and water, running from the Catskills in New York through Pennsylvania and New Jersey, ultimately emptying into the Delaware Bay.
“The historic level of federal dollars committed through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law strengthens the impact of this work and demonstrates what public and private investment can do together,” said Stuart Clarke, program director, Watershed Protection, William Penn Foundation.
“These are critical grants for the people and organizations working every day to advance conservation and restoration initiatives to improve water quality and water access for the benefit of all who rely on this resource,” he explained.
Despite its position in a major metropolitan corridor, the watershed is home to a remarkable variety of species and their habitats — from mountainside cold water streams to tidal salt marshes — that are economically, ecologically, and culturally important to the region. Urban and suburban waterways play a major role in the watershed’s communities, with headwaters in neighboring rural and agricultural areas.
Grant projects are implemented across this variety of landscapes, serving to improve wildlife habitat and human communities, accelerate implementation of best practices, provide opportunities for people to engage with nature, and ultimately benefit water quality locally and for those downstream.
Chartered by the U.S. Congress in 1984, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) protects and restores the nation’s fish, wildlife, plants and habitats. Working with federal, corporate, foundation and individual partners, NFWF has funded more than 6000 organizations, and has generated a total conservation impact of $8.1 billion.
Photo of red knot courtesy of NFWF.