Bayshore Highlands Lancaster County Brett Cole 0019 2

Bayshore-Highlands Fund (Completed)

Image Credit: Brett Cole

Philadelphia relies on upriver rural lands for clean water, local food, outdoor recreation, and other services that support its economy and sustain the lives of its residents. 

Through this Fund, launched in 2011, OSI brought new funding and a sharper focus to land protection in two regions that provide this critical natural infrastructure: the New Jersey Bayshore and the Pennsylvania Highlands.

Why Bayshore-Highlands Land Protection Fund

The New Jersey Bayshore is a patchwork of farms, forests, streams and tidal marshes along Delaware Bay. It’s a haven for wildlife and one of the state’s most productive agricultural regions. 

Pennsylvania’s Highlands are the source of drinking water for 14 million people, as well as an outdoor recreation destination, with scores of hiking trails threading through wooded hills. The region also supports a viable farm economy.

When houses and roads carve up intact parts of the Bayshore or the Highlands, this greatly diminishes the land’s value for wildlife, watershed protection, the agricultural economy and recreation. In both the Highlands and the Bayshore, existing protected lands were widely scattered and funding for land conservation was scarce, leaving large swaths of forest and farmland vulnerable to continued fragmentation.

We created the Bayshore-Highlands Fund in 2011, with a $5 million seed grant from the William Penn Foundation, to fill critical funding gaps and assemble larger blocks of protected lands in both regions. Using mapping tools, we narrowed down the focus in each region to a handful of areas with the most significant ecological and farm resources and prioritized projects within a half-mile of existing preserved land.

Impact of the Fund

As of 2016, the Fund made possible 37 projects, which protected more than 6,500 acres of farmland and natural areas and enlarged networks of preserved lands in both regions.

In the Bayshore, the Fund helped protected several groups of large wetland parcels and protected lands next to public and private nature preserves. Projects fostered new partnerships for natural area protection between townships, the county and the state’s Green Acres program.

The Fund is breaking new ground by linking farmland preservation with protections for streams, helping to set the stage for the subsequent Delaware River Watershed Protection Fund. Several projects we supported in the Highlands preserved farms that bordered on streams and used management practices preventing water pollution, including a group of five Amish farms in the Highlands region of Lancaster County and 12 farms in Pennsylvania’s Honey Brook Township. We also pioneered several innovative transactions preserving both economically viable agriculture and stream buffers on the same farm. 

In 2012, the Berks County Conservancy permanently protected the 170-acre Gehman property and received an OSI grant of $14,020. The Oley Hills, encompassing over 27,000 acres, is one of the largest undisturbed forests in Berks County. Recognized in federal, state, and county conservation plans, the Oley Hills has been designated a Critical Treasure by the Highlands Coalition and includes Berks County's most pristine watershed area.
Image Credit: Brett Cole

Next Steps to Apply

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