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OSI Secures $11 Million from William Penn Foundation for Land Conservation through its Delaware River Watershed Protection Fund

NEW YORK, NY (April 4, 2018)—The Open Space Institute (OSI) has received an $11 million grant from the William Penn Foundation for its Delaware Watershed Protection Fund. Today’s announcement builds on a similar grant awarded to OSI by the William Penn Foundation in 2012. With this latest funding, OSI will continue its work protecting forestland in the watershed, thereby ensuring clean drinking water for human communities and the natural environment in Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey and Delaware, including the cities of New York, Philadelphia and Trenton.

Through the prior grant, OSI utilized $8.3 million from the William Penn Foundation to fund projects conserving some 20,000 acres of high-priority watershed lands, protecting the water supply of 15 million people across the watershed. Each dollar of the funding was matched 6:1, leveraging approximately $55 million in other funding. Through the Delaware River Watershed Protection Fund, OSI awards grants to land trusts to conserve land locally.

OSI’s grants totaling $200,000 were pivotal in helping the New Jersey Conservation Foundation to protect the Zemel parcels in the New Jersey Pine Barrens.
OSI’s grants totaling $200,000 were pivotal in helping the New Jersey Conservation Foundation to protect the Zemel parcels in the New Jersey Pine Barrens.
Photo Credit: Brett Cole

“Protecting headwater and stream side forests, which filter out pollutants, is the first and best way to ensure clean water in the Delaware River Basin,” said Kim Elliman, president and CEO of OSI. “The Open Space Institute is pleased and honored to join with the region’s land trusts as we intensify our collective efforts to protect important forestland in places like the Upper Lehigh, the Schuylkill Highlands and Pine Barrens, and riparian forested buffers on farms. 

“By targeting our efforts, leveraging other private and public investments, we can help maintain the extraordinary natural infrastructure that keeps our water clean and sustains a rich ecosystem as well as vibrant recreational economy in this unique place,” Elliman said.

“To protect water quality in the Delaware River basin for the future, it is essential that we protect the basin’s forests now,” said Andrew Johnson, Director of the Watershed Protection Program at the William Penn Foundation. “We are pleased and proud to extend additional support to the Open Space Institute to build on the impressive progress they and the region’s land trusts have made over the past four years in permanently protecting critical forestland in communities across the watershed. We look forward to their continued success.”

Land protection projects funded by OSI under the Delaware Watershed Protection Fund to date include:

  • Klondike, a 500-acre property in Emmaus, PA. In March 2018, OSI’s $430,000 grant was instrumental in helping the Wildlands Conservancy secure $2.45 million to protect the property at the headwaters of the Lehigh River.
  • Mosiers Knob, a 550-acre parcel in Smithfield Township, PA. In December 2014, OSI provided a $350,000 grant to help the Trust for Public Land assemble $4.3 million to conserve the property along the Delaware River in the Poconos. The property was later added to the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area.
  • The Zemel lands, totaling 2,400 acres in Woodland and Pembertown Townships, NJ. OSI’s grants totaling $200,000 were pivotal in helping the New Jersey Conservation Foundation obtain almost $1.8 million to protect the parcels located in the New Jersey Pine Barrens. The parcels included Zemel Woodland South and Zemel Woodland North.

In addition to funding to protect forestland, the Penn Foundation recently also awarded OSI $1.5 million to measure the direct impact land protection plays in water quality.

In our work with land trusts, OSI harnesses new data and tools to target the most important lands for water quality.
In our work with land trusts, OSI harnesses new data and tools to target the most important lands for water quality.

The forests in the headwaters of the Delaware River are of critical importance for residents in the watershed for filtering pollutants from drinking water. To protect forestland, OSI provides grants to national, regional and local land trusts for the purchase of land and easements to conserve forestland and protect water supplies.

In working with land trusts, OSI harnesses new data and tools to target the most important lands for water quality. Additionally, OSI provides planning grants to support efforts to integrate water quality science into open space and other regional plans to accelerate watershed protection by state, county and municipal governments. 

The Delaware River supplies drinking water to more than 15 million people in four states, and yet no single state or governor has the authority to protect this critical natural resource. One of the country’s largest non-regulatory conservation efforts to protect and restore clean water, the Delaware River Watershed Initiative (DRWI), launched in 2014, is a cumulative collaborative effort involving 65 organizations working together at an unprecedented scale to protect and restore clean water in the Delaware River watershed.

The challenges facing the 13,500-square mile Delaware River Watershed require significant action by landowners and local municipalities. Through the Delaware River Watershed Initiative, the William Penn Foundation and some 65 partner organizations address widespread sources of pollution that collectively have major impacts on water quality in rivers and streams: erosion and runoff from deforested acres in the basin headwaters; polluted runoff from agricultural fields; flooding and polluted stormwater from developed areas; and depletion of the Kirkwood-Cohansey aquifer in southern New Jersey.

To date, the William Penn Foundation’s investment in the DRWI has totaled more than $100 million.

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