Open Space and Watershed Land Acquisition Grant Program

(CGS Section 7-131d to 7-131k, inclusive)

Wapping Park
Wapping Park, South Windsor - OSWA Grant Recipient

The Department is not currently accepting applications for the Open Space and Watershed Land Acquisition Grant Program (OSWA).  Please check back for updates on this grant program and the Urban Green and Community Garden Program.

The Open Space and Watershed Land Acquisition (OSWA) Grant Program provides financial assistance to municipalities and nonprofit land conservation organizations to acquire land for open space, and to water companies to acquire land to be classified as Class I or Class II water supply property.

Awards are granted to projects that offer the highest conservation and recreational value and that leverage the greatest percentage of private and municipal funding.  The Department also accepts applications from distressed municipalities under the Urban Green and Community Garden Program.

Funding for these grants is derived from State Bond funds and/or the Community Investment Act.  Grants are based on the merit of the project and the level of funds available.  Awards may not be made unless adequate funding is available.

Additional Information and Assistance

OSWA Eligibility Requirements:

  • Applicants must be a municipality, non-profit land conservation organization (e.g., land trust), or water company;
  • Water companies must purchase land that can be classified as “Class I” or Class II” after acquisition, and must show if and how they intend to allow access to proposed land for recreational uses;
  • If a non-profit land trust is purchasing land or interest in land located within a municipality considered as Targeted or Distressed (CGS section 32-9p), it must obtain approval form the chief elected official or governing legislative body;
  • If a proposed property is being purchased from a water company, the property must be classified as surplus Class III land by the water company. The water company, as title holder, must be granted permission to dispose of the property by the State Public Utilities Regulatory Authority and the Department of Public Health;
  • All lands or interest in lands acquired under this program must be preserved in perpetuity, predominantly in their natural, scenic, and open condition;
  • For municipal applicants, if the municipality’s current Plan of Conservation and Development is more than 10 years old, a grant cannot be awarded;
  • Applicants must show evidence of compliance with the terms and conditions of any previously awarded grants;
  • Applicants must clearly show how the public will access and enjoy the property.  If public access is not clearly shown, the property will not be evaluated or awarded a grant.
  • Applicants must show a reasonable anticipation that cost-share match funding will be available within one year of the State grant being awarded.
  • Applicants with projects which were awarded prior to year 2020 should not apply until those projects are fully completed/closed with the Department, or grant funds are turned back/returned.
Grant funds cannot be used to purchase:  
  1. Land to be used for commercial activities or for recreational purposes requiring intensive development;
  2. Land which has already been committed for public use or is already encumbered by a conservation easement;
  3. Land to be acquired by eminent domain.
Grant funds cannot be used towards
  1. Development costs; and/or
  2. Reimbursement of in-kind services or incidental costs associated with the acquisition of lands (including survey fees, legal fees, and appraisal fees).

View From Dyer Property Avalonia Land Trust
View from Tri-Town Ridgeline Forest
by Avalonia Land Conservancy, Inc. - OSWA Grant Recipient
Grant Program Overview & Selection

An application form and required supporting documentation including maps, title searches, and appraisals must be submitted by the Department's grant deadline.  Applications must be endorsed by local Planning, Zoning, Conservation and/or Open Space Commissions and must include an advisory report and the recommendations of the appropriate regional planning agency.  Applicants are encouraged to apply for the acquisition of parcels that can realistically be purchased within a 12-month time frame.  Applicants may close prior to the submission deadline only if a waiver approval in writing by the Commissioner is provided with the grant application package.  Projects having the required cost-share matching available, title and appraisal report(s) completed, and a current property boundary survey are encouraged.

The Department uses a selection process to objectively evaluate proposals.  Land identified for acquisition will be evaluated by a review team consisting of staff from the various resource management divisions of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, the Department of Public Health, and the Department of Agriculture.  Decisions to grant awards for the the acquisition of parcels will be based on the ranking scores and comments provided by the review team, in addition to considerations such as:

  • Meeting minimum eligibility requirements of the grant program;
  • Protection of multiple natural resource values/public benefit needs, such as drinking water supply protection, connecting trail greenways and wildlife corridors, and core forest preservation;
  • Project proximity to urban or highly populated areas;
  • Project proximity to existing protected open space, agricultural land, or water company land currently classified as Class I or Class II water supply land;
  • Availability of a property for donation or bargain sale;
  • Anticipated land stewardship needs and constraints; and
  • Project compatibility with the State's Plan of Conservation and Development and other statewide natural resource plans, policies, goals and objectives.

Please be advised:  This grant program is competitive.  Any missing information required by the application will result in a less-than optimal score.  Any information found in an application to be misleading will be grounds for withdrawal of the application and forefeiture of any possible or awarded grant.  For informational purposes, the scoring sheet used by the Department in evaluating applications is made available at the top of this page.

Grants are awarded for the purchase of land that is:

  1. Valuable for recreation, forestry, fishing, conservation of wildlife or natural resources;
  2. A prime natural feature of the state's landscape;
  3. Habitat for native plant or animal species listed as threatened, endangered or of special concern;
  4. A relatively undisturbed outstanding example of an uncommon native ecological community;
  5. Important for enhancing and conserving water quality;
  6. Valuable for preserving local agricultural heritage; or
  7. Eligible to be classified as Class I or Class II watershed land.

Land acquired will be preserved in perpetuity predominately in its natural scenic and open condition, for the protection or provision of potable water, or for agriculture.  A permanent conservation easement will be provided to the State of Connecticut, Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to ensure that the property remains in a natural and open condition for the conservation, open space, agriculture, green space or water supply purposes for which it was acquired.  The easement will include a requirement that the property be made available to the general public for passive recreational purposes.  Where development rights will be purchased and where general public access would be disruptive of an existing agricultural activity, an exception to the provision for unlimited passive recreational access may be made, at the discretion of the Commissioner.  Where development rights are to be purchased, the State of Connecticut will become an equal holder of those rights as a substitute for the easement.  The Department retains the right to reduce grant awards for limited public access proposals.

State Natural Heritage, Open Space and Watershed Land Acquisition Review Board
The Natural Heritage, Open Space and Watershed Land Acquisition Review Board is an independent advisory group of volunteers appointed by the Governor and the leadership of the House and Senate under Section 7-131(e) to provide guidance and recommendations to the Department on the Open Space and Watershed Land Acquisition Grant Program and the Recreation and Natural Heritage Trust Program.

Advisory Review Board Meeting Schedule
As of January 2021, the Review Board meets the second Thursday of every month from 10:30 am – 12:00 pm.  Until further notice the meetings will be held via Zoom.  The meetings are open to the public.  Please contact Co-Chair Amy Blaymore Paterson in advance of the meeting for a Zoom link:

Additional Assistance

If you have any questions, first reference the Answers to Frequently Asked Questions.  If you still have additional questions or need additional assistance, please contact:

Allyson Clarke, Property Agent
Phone:  (860) 424-3774 or (860) 595-7469
Department of Energy & Environmental Protection
Office of the Commissioner
79 Elm Street, 6th Floor
Hartford, Connecticut 06106

For questions about protecting working farmland, please contact Elisabeth Moore, Executive Director at the Connecticut Farmland Trust, at


Content Last Updated:  December 2023