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Healthy Watersheds Protection

Healthy Watersheds Consortium Grants (HWCG)

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2018 Healthy Watersheds Consortium Grant Request for Proposals (RFP)

The Healthy Watersheds Consortium (HWC), a partnership between the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, has called for 2018 Request for Proposals. The goal of the HWC Grant Program is to “accelerate strategic protection of healthy, freshwater ecosystems and their watersheds”, with primary focus on prevention of land deterioration in the watershed by:

  • Developing funding mechanisms, plans, or other strategies to implement large-scale watershed protection, source water protection, green infrastructure, or related 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.

Applications are due February 1, 2018 at 8 p.m. Eastern and up to $3 million is available.

Additionally, two webinars have been scheduled to help those interested to get more information about the HWC Grant Program. 

  • On September 26, 2017, 2-3 p.m. Eastern — Peaks to People Water Fund: Lessons learned in the proof of concept phase and demonstration of the Watershed Investment Tool. Learn about work to accelerate forest restoration in Colorado to reduce the threat of severe wildfire in watersheds. The Peaks to People Water Fund received a Healthy Watersheds Consortium Grant Program award in 2016.
  • On October 19, 2017, 2-3 p.m. Eastern – An informational webinar that will provide an overview of priorities for the 2018 program and a forum to answer questions about the program and the application and selection process.

For more information on the Healthy Watersheds Consortium Grant Program, resources that will help develop your proposal, and to register for the webinars, visit the  U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities, Healthy Watersheds Consortium websiteExit


The Healthy Watersheds Consortium Grant Program’s second-year of awards expands the pace of proactive watershed protection in the U.S. through conservation and improved stewardship of hundreds of thousands of acres of lands that provide drinking water, flood risk reduction, and an array of economic and environmental benefits. The sixteen awards total $2.75 million and will benefit organizations and partnerships in 18 states. The Heathy Watersheds Consortium Grant Program was conceived by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Office of Water (EPA) and launched in late 2015.

 EPA co-funds the program with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the U. S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities (Endowment), which manages the partnership.

Grants focused on three categories: 1) short-term funding to leverage larger financing for targeted watershed protection; 2) funds to help build the capacity of local organizations for sustainable, long-term watershed protection; and 3) new techniques or approaches that advance the state of practice for watershed protection and that can be replicated across the country.

 The sixteen funded proposals are:

Supporting Healthy Watersheds and Communities in Downeast Maine - $150,000 over three years to the Downeast Conservation Network, a consortium of 11 organizations including land trusts, educational institutions, and applied conservation organizations, with the goal of conserving up to 15,000 acres and increasing public support for watershed protection through trainings and community workshops, coordination, better understanding of the economic value of healthy watersheds, and a shared regional vision for watershed protection.

Niagara River Watershed Headwater Protection Initiative, New York - $300,000 over three years to the Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper to increase their capacity to protect priority upper watershed lands and secure a source water protection fund. Using a “circuit rider” model, the program will engage more than 80 communities to accelerate protection and management measures on up to 433,000 acres of source water lands in the Niagara River Watershed and help ensure clean drinking water for 11 million people while supporting healthy communities and economies.

Demonstrating Stream Health Improvements from Healthy Watershed Actions in Maryland - $40,000 to AKRF, an environmental consulting firm, which will work in collaboration with Versar and Maryland Department of Natural Resources, to examine the relationship between land protection and stream health improvements that have been achieved in Maryland from 1995-2015. The comprehensive Maryland Biological Stream Survey will be used to compare stream condition in both protected and unprotected watersheds.

Developing Programs for Easements and Forester Enrollment in Pennsylvania - $175,000 over three years to the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources to develop two interrelated programs: a forest conservation easement program designed to conserve in perpetuity up to 100,000 working forest acres within the Chesapeake Bay watershed, and a forest practitioner enrollment program for landowners who implement sustainable management practices that will improve forest health and water quality.

Increasing Capacity for Strategic Land Conservation in the Gulf Coast Region - $140,000 over three years to The Partnership for Gulf Coast Land Conservation, a coalition of 25 land trusts working cooperatively in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida. The plan is to secure sustainable financial support to build their Gulf Coast Land Conservation Assistance Fund, a program that helps land trusts develop land conservation projects. The Partnership’s initial goal with this award is to secure an additional $1,000,000 for the Project Assistance Fund and their ultimate goal is to help protect up to 75,000 high-priority acres in the Gulf Region over the next several years.

Catawba-Wateree Clean Water Initiative, North Carolina and South Carolina – $175,000 over three years to the Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina to work with 18 water utilities, Duke Energy, and stakeholders from the mountain headwaters to the coastal plain to help conserve up to 12,000 acres of land prioritized as high impact for future water security and to create a sustainable source water protection fund for the Catawba-Wateree River Basin. The Catawba-Wateree is a source of drinking water, recreation, and energy for more than two million people.

Protecting South Carolina's Winyah Bay Watershed - $150,000 over two years to American Rivers to create a source water protection fund and help protect healthy forests, floodplain wetlands, and wildlife habitats along the Great Pee Dee, Little Pee Dee, Black, and Waccamaw Rivers in the Winyah Bay watershed. These rivers are the primary drinking water supply for over 500,000 people including those in the Florence, Myrtle Beach, and the greater Grand Strand areas of South Carolina. The rivers are well known for outstanding recreational opportunities and contribute significantly to the regional economy by supporting industrial water users and ecotourism businesses.

Collaborating to Protect Ohio's Healthy Central Lake Erie Basin Watersheds - $200,000 over three years to the Chagrin River Watershed Partners to leverage $11 million of land protection funds that are projected to help protect up to 425 miles of streams and 30,000 acres of land within Ohio’s Central Lake Erie watershed in partnership with the Central Lake Erie Basin Collaborative, West Creek Conservancy, and Western Reserve Land Conservancy.

Connecting Northeast Michigan's land and people for conservation success - $180,000 over four years to Huron Pines to build the regional capacity and the sustainable funding structure needed to help protect up to 10,000 acres of prioritized lands and reconnect 50 high-quality trout stream miles in Northeast Michigan and the Lake Huron Basin. Project tasks will strengthen community readiness and stimulate economic investment for Northeast Michigan communities to result in long-term protection for the area’s people and natural resources.

Land Protection in the Huron River Watershed through Innovative Conservation Funding and Planning, Michigan - $180,000 over three years to the Huron River Watershed Council to advance land protection through innovative strategies to generate new land protection funds from local governments and to support watershed protection goals. Natural lands serve a host of benefits to local governments and their residents, including treatment of polluted runoff, recreation, and clean water. The partners will work with local governments to ensure the most ecologically beneficial natural lands are protected so they can continue to provide these benefits.

Blackfeet Glacier Healthy Headwaters Conservation Corridor, Montana - $160,000 over three years to the Blackfeet Fish and Wildlife Department to facilitate conservation of up to 223,000 acres of lands critical for clean drinking water and wildlife important to the tribe's hunting and fishing culture. Funds will also be used to develop and implement natural resource management plans for long term land stewardship to boost rural economic benefits through increased tourism and preservation of traditional livelihoods.

Northern Rockies Watershed Conservation Project, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming - $175,000 over two years to The Trust for Public Land to develop a Watershed Conservation decision-support tool and catalyze the conservation of up to 60,000 acres of priority watershed lands in the Northern Rocky Mountains using conservation easements.

Evaluating the economic value of landscape-scale forest restoration to advance the Forest Resilience Bond in Sierra Nevada watersheds, California - $175,000 over two years to Blue Forest Conservation and the World Resources Institute to develop an economic case for utility investment in watershed restoration through the Forest Resilience Bond, a pay-for-success financing vehicle. Research will focus on the water quantity impacts of fuel reduction treatments in forested watersheds within California's Sierra Nevada.

Achieving landscape-scale conservation in the Feather River Watershed, California - $200,000 over three years to the Feather River Land Trust to build the capacity to protect and steward an additional 75,000 priority acres in the Feather River watershed of northern California, a source of water for 60% of Californians. This will help protect the watershed’s large intact meadow systems, rare species populations, and working ranches, while promoting ecotourism. A land transaction cost recovery model will be developed to generate funds for stewardship and legal endowments to ensure long term watershed protection.

Protecting Blue Creek & the Klamath River for Salmon, Wildlife, and People, California – $210,000 to Western Rivers Conservancy to create the Blue Creek Salmon Sanctuary and Yurok Tribal Community Forest. Together these comprise 47,000 acres of coastal temperate rainforest within a top-priority northern California watershed. The project completes conservation of Blue Creek, the most important source of cold water for the Klamath River, and a lifeline for salmon. Western Rivers Conservancy will develop a carbon offset project and assist the Yurok Tribe with new funding strategies, while helping ensure that salmon, which are crucial to the Yurok way of life, survive in the Klamath forever.

McKenzie Watershed Conservation Fund, Oregon - $140,000 over two years to the Eugene Water & Electric Board (EWEB) to design, develop, and test a watershed conservation fund that aligns funding from multiple sources to protect and manage up to 15,000 acres of riparian forests in a healthy watershed which is the sole source of drinking water for 200,000 people. EWEB will also work with the North and South Santiam Watersheds to test transferability of this concept to neighboring basins. This effort is part of EWEB’s new Pure Water Partners program that will be rolled out in 2017.

 For more information contact:
Peter Stangel, 404-915-2763;
The U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities (the Endowment) is a not-for-profit public charity working collaboratively with partners in the public and private sectors to advance systemic, transformative, and sustainable change for the health and vitality of the nation’s working forests and forest-reliant communities – U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities, Inc

2017 Healthy Watersheds Consortium Grant Request for Proposals (RFP)

EPA, USDA/NRCS, and U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities announced the availability of $2 million for 2017.  The RFP deadline was February 1, 2017.  

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Frequent Questions about the HWCG

1. What is a healthy watershed?

For the purposes of this grant program, a Healthy Watershed is one in which natural land cover supports dynamic hydrologic and geomorphic processes within their natural range of variation (i.e., sediment storage and deposition); habitat of sufficient size and connectivity to support native aquatic and riparian species; and water quality that supports healthy biological communities. (US EPA, 2012. Identifying and Protecting Healthy Watersheds: Concepts, Assessments, and Management Approaches. U.S. EPA, EPA-841-B-11-002).

2. What does EPA mean by “consortium”?

For the purposes of this program, a consortium is one entity who is linked with or in a collaborative partnership with other groups or organizations having similar healthy watersheds protection goals.

3. What projects can be funded under the subawards?

It is anticipated that the subaward projects will be either healthy watershed program development projects or local demonstration/training projects. For healthy watershed program development projects, the subaward funds should be provided for projects that develop and/or support state, interstate, and tribal healthy watersheds programs. Examples of projects include development of state, interstate, or tribal healthy watersheds strategies or plans that employ a systems-based, integrated approach to protection; environmental flows assessments; and public outreach and education on the importance of protecting healthy watersheds. For local demonstration/training projects, examples include protection of forested drinking water sources in headwaters, restoration of hydrologic connectivity, development of local conservation zoning and easement program plans.

4. Can conservation easements be funded through the subaward grants?

Funds received through this competition cannot be used for the purchase of land or conservation easements. However, partner funding that is independent of this federal funding and not part of the cost share / match (required and voluntary cost share / match) may be used for implementation projects, such as for example, the purchase of land or conservation easements.

5. Our university would like to participate as a subawardee for consortium grants because of our expertise on watershed related effects on stream ecosystem health. How can we find additional information on the subaward processs?

It will take the grantee some time to set up the sub-grant program. We estimate that this will be sometime in the late 2015 timeframe. The grantee will establish a process for the sub-grants that will be included on a web site with sub-grant application instructions. EPA will have a link to this sub-grant website on our Healthy Watersheds Program website.

6. How many subawards does EPA anticipate being made under this grant? Is there a minimum or maximum number required? Anticipated federal funding for this award is approximately $3.75 million. Does this amount include funding that the grantee will issue as subawards?

There is no minimum or maximum number of sub-awards under this grant. The total funding of the grant with the required match is $5 million ($3.75M of federal funding, plus 25% match). The number of subawards under this grant depends upon any additional leveraged funds, increasing the total funding beyond $5 million, and the range of funding in proposed subawards. Funding for each sub-award may range from $50,000 to $150,000 per project. It is anticipated that a portion of the federal funding will go towards the subawards.

7. Approximately how many subaward projects does EPA anticipate over the course of the grant period? Additionally, does EPA prefer that there be a high volume of small-scale short-term (1-2 year) subawards or a smaller volume of large-scale long-term (4-5 year) subawards?

EPA does not have a minimum or maximum number of subawards or the length of the individual subaward. Funding for each subaward is expected to be in the range of $50,000 to $150,000. The subawards funded under the cooperative agreement must be completed prior to the end of the cooperative agreement project period. The subawards need to be completed in sufficient time for the recipient to, for example, aggregate results and ensure that subawardees have been reimbursed for all incurred costs.

8. Please explain the types of healthy watersheds that subawardees may apply to work on. For example, quality of watershed, size, location etc.

Healthy watersheds protection is defined broadly as actions that preserve, enhance or improve aquatic ecosystems and supporting natural landscape and watershed processes such as hydrology in largely healthy watersheds. The grant is intended to support local protection and/or enhancement projects in healthy or primarily healthy watersheds that can be sustained into the future. A healthy watershed is one in which natural land cover supports dynamic hydrologic and geomorphic processes within their natural range of variation (i.e., sediment storage and deposition); habitat of sufficient size and connectivity to support native aquatic and riparian species; and water quality that supports healthy biological communities. Local projects must represent strategic priorities from an interstate, state, tribal, basin-scale, or regional-scale plan or strategy intended to protect healthy watersheds, or from some other prioritization scheme based on a healthy watersheds assessment.

To the extent a metropolitan river basin or watershed (e.g., Chesapeake Bay Watershed) has such a plan or strategy and is large enough to have healthy or primarily healthy watersheds that provide ecological infrastructure to support and sustain local protection and/or enhancement projects, then projects in healthy watersheds that are priorities for protection in the large basin or watershed would qualify for sub-grants.

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