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Healthy Watersheds Consortium Grant Program

Grants to USA Nonprofits, For-Profits, Agencies, Tribes,
and IHEs to Protect Freshwater Ecosystems

Agency Type:

Foundation / Corporation

Funding Source:

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US Endowment for Forestry and Communities - Healthy Watersheds Consortium

Deadline Date:

02/01/18 8:00 PM ET Receipt


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Grants to USA and territories nonprofit organizations, for-profit companies, government agencies, IHEs, and tribes to protect watersheds and freshwater ecosystems. Applicants are strongly encouraged to contact program staff prior to applying. The primary goal of this program is the stewardship and protection of land in the watershed, rather than restoration of degraded habitats or projects with a strictly water quality improvement outcome.

This goal will be achieved by:
-Developing funding mechanisms, plans, or strategies to implement large-scale watershed or source water protection, green infrastructure, or landscape conservation objectives;
-Building the sustainable organizational infrastructure, social support, and long-term funding commitments necessary to implement large-scale protection of healthy watersheds; and
-Supporting innovative or catalytic projects that may accelerate funding for or implementation of watershed protection efforts, or broadly advance this field of practice.

Awards will be considered in the following three categories. These categories are not rigid; they simply reflect the Consortium’s approach to watershed protection.

1) Watershed Action Projects are specific projects that fulfill components of an established plan or guiding document. These projects will typically leverage a Healthy Watersheds Consortium award many times for maximum results and should be part of a broader watershed strategy developed at the HUC 8 scale or larger.

2) Building Watershed Protection Capacity awards grow the organizational capacity needed for large-scale, long-term healthy watershed protection. Applicants should identify existing or proposed funding or strategies to be tapped with increased capacity for project implementation. How will increased capacity allow your organization to secure the funding or implement a strategy needed to accelerate long-term watershed protection?.

3) Advancing the State of Practice: Awards for new or experimental technologies, methods, financing strategies, or approaches to incentivize watershed protection that can be scaled to a broader level. Training projects that relate to gathering or exchanging information to advance the state of practice are eligible. Proposals must include a plan for scaling projects and disseminating information to relevant users and must include a demonstrated need from end users, via letters of support.

Eligible Projects:

The Healthy Watersheds Consortium Grant Program was conceived by EPA to protect healthy, aquatic ecosystems and their watersheds. Funding will be considered for projects that:
-Achieve large-scale, measurable outcomes (acres protected, etc.);
-Mobilize, expand, and strengthen collaborations to achieve watershed protection;;
-Tap into new or existing funding sources for highly leveraged outcomes;
-Develop mechanisms for securing financing necessary to implement protection projects;
-Involve multiple watersheds that are adjacent or clustered in a single geography;
-Implement protection-related activities in existing watershed, source water, or similar plans or programs, such as: National Wild and Scenic Rivers; Sentinel Landscapes; USDA Forest Service Community Forests, and others.
-Develop and/or implement large-scale green infrastructure projects;
-Protect drinking water sources and watersheds;
-Create/expand organizational/social infrastructure to accelerate healthy watershed protection;
-Create sustainable landowner incentives for watershed protection;
-Develop sustainable land-use planning that protects healthy watersheds;
-Demonstrate or quantify the economic benefits of healthy watersheds;
-Demonstrate the human health (drinking water, fishable/swimmable water), recreation, and other benefits of healthy watersheds;
-Communicate the value of healthy watersheds to key constituencies to enhance protection;
-Develop watershed protection plans and the funding needed to implement those plans; and
-Develop a community of learning for watershed protection groups to share information.

Watershed Scale:

The Healthy Watershed Consortium Grant Program seeks protection at larger scales. The minimum scale considered for funding are projects designed to apply within a HUC 8 subwatershed planning unit. Activities that are tied to implementation of a larger-scale plan are most desirable.

Multiple Values and Partners:

Watershed protection is a holistic endeavor. Healthy Watershed Consortium grants should benefit a wide range of values, including but not limited to water quality and quantity, source water and drinking water, wildlife, local economies, and recreation. Diverse partnerships will strengthen proposals.

Post-Grant Support:

As part of the overarching goal to accelerate protection, this Program seeks to help communities protect their healthy watersheds. Staff at the Endowment, EPA, and NRCS is committed to the awardee’s success. Staff and consultants are available to support awardees in all aspects of their work. The Consortium seeks to be active partners in problem-solving and information dissemination. These services may include, but are not limited to, communications, technical review, monitoring, group facilitation, and project design.

Healthy Watersheds:

For this program, a healthy watershed is one in which the hydrological, biological, and land-based functions of the ecosystem are largely intact. The EPA defines a healthy watershed as one in which natural land cover supports dynamic hydrologic and geomorphic processes within their natural range of variation (i.e., sediment storage and deposition), where there is habitat of sufficient size and connectivity to support native aquatic and riparian species, and where water quality is adequate to support healthy biological communities.

A healthy watershed may include natural, semi-natural, and well-managed lands and may contain a variety of human land uses. Healthy watersheds don’t have to be pristine, but should be in good condition. Applicants must make the case to the review committee that their watershed is healthy.


The goal is to conserve healthy aquatic ecosystems and the supporting natural and managed landscape and watershed processes, such as hydrology, that support them. The principle is to protect and sustain healthy watersheds so that they will continue to provide ecological services such as clean water, drinking water, habitat for fish and wildlife, recreation, and protection from natural hazards.

The Healthy Watersheds Consortium Grant Program encourages creative, cost-effective, locally- developed approaches to watershed protection. The review committee challenges applicants to propose protection strategies that best fit their watershed.

Achieving large-scale protection of healthy watersheds may take decades. The Healthy Watershed Consortium Grant Program seeks to create and build the sustainable organizational infrastructure and financing needed to help communities protect their healthy watersheds over the long-term.

Two types of protection activities will be considered:

1) Land acquisition and conservation easements: The primary focus is to prevent conversion of a healthy watershed to uses that would diminish its function. This is traditionally accomplished through land acquisition or use of conservation easements from willing landowners. Although awards may not be directly used for acquisition or easements, applications are encouraged for developing or supporting efforts that enable acquisitions or easements on a larger or sustainable scale. Easements should be long-term or preferably in perpetuity.

2) Land stewardship: A secondary focus is for lands that are already protected (public ownership or secured with easements), in good condition, and that have appropriate land cover, but that require stewardship to maintain or enhance watershed function. Applications will be considered that provide measurable benefits to watershed function (e.g. reduced wildfire hazard).

For example, projects that:
-Incentivize private landowners to enhance stewardship;
-Certify forests and appropriate agricultural systems to improve landscape condition;
-Deliver cost-share or education programs to landowners for best stewardship practices; and
-Improve watershed management on public lands.

As with the acquisition approach described in the previous paragraph, awards may not be directly used for stewardship activities (e.g. funding to treat 100 acres). Applications will be considered for developing or implementing financing or other mechanisms that will result in stewardship on a larger, sustainable scale (e.g. to secure financing from other entities or to develop mechanisms to treat large acreages). Applicants must demonstrate proposed stewardship projects will take place on land that is already protected or provide assurance that stewardship activities are sustainable.

GrantWatch ID#:

GrantWatch ID#: 167680

Estimated Total Program Funding:


Estimated Size of Grant:

-Watershed Action Projects: $50,000 - $250,000
-Building Watershed Protection Capacity: Maximum $150,000/year
-Advancing the State of Practice: $50,000 - $200,000

Term of Contract:

Watershed Action Projects: Applicants may seek additional funding for new projects in the same watershed in future award cycles.

Building Watershed Protection Capacity: Award duration of up to two years with funding renewed annually, based on performance.

Projects funded in this cycle must conclude no later than December 31, 2020.

Additional Eligibility Criteria:

Not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organizations, for-profit companies, tribes, intertribal consortia, interstates, state, and local government agencies including water utilities and wastewater facilities, and colleges and universities are eligible for funding. Unincorporated individuals and federal agencies are not eligible. Public/private partnerships are particularly desirable.

The Endowment does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, disability, or age in any of its programs or activities.

Work must be in the 50 United States, Tribal Lands, the District of Columbia, and U.S. Territories.

Ineligible Projects:

Awards may not be directly used for land acquisition, conservation easements, or habitat restoration, unless as smaller components of Advancing the State of Practice projects with clear, scalable applications. Awards may be used to secure other sources of funding for direct land acquisition or to develop programs that lead to land protection.

The following types of projects are not likely to be competitive for funding:
-Dam removal to facilitate fish passage;
-Restoration of highly degraded lands;
-Land stewardship projects that are short-term or unsustainable;
-Invasive, exotic species removal/control projects that are unsustainable;
-Amelioration of point source pollution sources;
-Water quality improvement projects that do not include a land conservation component;
-Urban activities that don’t accelerate watershed protection;
-Plans or capacity building without a clear link to potential funding for implementation;
-Research without a clear link to measurable protection;
-Education or communication programs without a clear link to measurable protection;

Awards may not be used for lobbying, fundraising, political advocacy, or litigation.

Pre-Application Information:

Applicants should provide at least 25% of the total project cost. This may include cash donations or in-kind contributions from third-parties and allowable costs incurred by the applicant in the course of the project. The Endowment may decrease the matching requirement to as low as 10% if the applicant can demonstrate in writing that fiscal circumstances are constrained to such an extent that fulfilling the matching funds requirement would impose undue hardship.

Matching funds should meet these criteria: verifiable from applicant records; not already considered as match to another Federal award; necessary to complete project objectives; committed directly to the project and used within the project period (begins date your application was submitted); and Allowable under OMB 2 CFR 200 Cost Principles.

Federal to federal funding matches are not allowed. Because Healthy Watershed Consortium awards may include non-federal (Endowment) and/or federal funds (EPA/NRCS), it is important to clearly state the origin of proposed match in the application.

NOTE: Applicants are strongly urged to request decreased match requirements in writing prior to submitting a full proposal.

This opportunity closes Thursday, February 1, 2018, at 8:00 PM Eastern. Proposals received after this time may not be considered.

Applicants are strongly urged to contact Peter Stangel or Jeff Lerner to discuss project ideas before submitting an application.

Applicants should provide at least three, but no more than five, letters from partners demonstrating their awareness of and support for your project.

2018 Process Schedule:
-FP Issued: September 2018
-Proposal Deadline: February 1, 2018 (8:00 PM Eastern)
-Proposal Review Completed: Week of March 26, 2018
-Applicants notified: Week of April 2, 2018

Informational Webinar Recording:

Click here to watch a recording of the Peaks to People Webinar. Peaks to People is a 2016 HWC Grant Recipient.

Contact Information:

Before starting your grant application, please review the funding source's website listed below for updates/changes/addendums/conferences/LOIs.

Peter Stangel

Jeff Lerner

Healthy Watersheds Consortium
908 E. North Street
Greenville, SC 29601


URL for Full Text (RFP):

Geographic Focus:

USA: Alabama;   Alaska;   Arizona;   Arkansas;   California;   Colorado;   Connecticut;   Delaware;   Florida;   Georgia;   Hawaii;   Idaho;   Illinois;   Indiana;   Iowa;   Kansas;   Kentucky;   Louisiana;   Maine;   Maryland;   Massachusetts;   Michigan;   Minnesota;   Mississippi;   Missouri;   Montana;   Nebraska;   Nevada;   New Hampshire;   New Jersey;   New Mexico;   New York City;   New York;   North Carolina;   North Dakota;   Ohio;   Oklahoma;   Oregon;   Pennsylvania;   Rhode Island;   South Carolina;   South Dakota;   Tennessee;   Texas;   Utah;   Vermont;   Virginia;   Washington, DC;   Washington;   West Virginia;   Wisconsin;   Wyoming

USA Territories: American Samoa (USA)   Guam (USA)   Puerto Rico (USA)   Virgin Islands (USA)   Northern Mariana Islands (USA)