The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation announced on Aug. 7 the launch of the Delaware Watershed Conservation Fund, a competitive grant and technical assistance program of $4.3 million that will provide new support for the protection, restoration and conservation of fish and wildlife habitats in the Delaware River Watershed, which provides drinking water for more than 15 million people.

Congress provided funds to the FWS in fiscal 2018 to leverage public and private funding to support the environmental and economic health of the Delaware River Watershed for boots-on-the-ground conservation projects — as outlined in the Delaware River Basin Restoration Partnership and Program Framework.

Covering 13,539 square miles of land and water, the Delaware River Watershed is home to native brook trout, red knots, river herring, freshwater mussels, oysters and other wildlife. Headwaters and streams located in rural, forested and agricultural areas play a major role in the ecosystem, as do urban and suburban waterways such as those in Trenton, Philadelphia and Wilmington.

Work supported by the DWCF will take place in a variety of landscapes and habitats across the Delaware River Watershed, from the beaches and tidal salt marshes of the Delaware Bay to the farms, cities and towns of Delaware, Pennsylvania and New Jersey, to the cold-water rivers and streams of New York. The DWCF will expand and further facilitate restoration and conservation efforts in the basin to restore and conserve fish and wildlife habitat; improve and maintain water quality for fish, wildlife and people; manage water volume and improve flood damage mitigation for fish and wildlife habitat; and improve recreational opportunities consistent with ecological needs

Through the DWCF, NFWF will award Conservation Action Grants to nonprofit organizations; federal, state, interstate and local governments; Indian tribes; and educational institutions to implement on-the-ground restoration and conservation projects that achieve the goals of the framework. Projects also will engage and equip the public to support coordinated restoration and protection; facilitate resilience of natural systems; increase scientific knowledge, monitoring and research needed for successful project implementation; provide technical assistance for restoration and conservation; and conserve areas of regional significance in the Delaware River Watershed.

NFWF will administer an annual competitive grant solicitation and selection process, working closely with the FWS and an advisory team comprised of federal, state, interstate and local government agency representatives, nonprofits and other leading experts. The request for grant proposals is open, and applications are due Sept. 27.

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