Through its Land Protection Program, Sweet Water Trust supports projects that protect wildness on our landscape so that it revives, deepens, and endures. Each year we will fund a few landscape scale conservation projects, often through multi-year grants. Sweet Water Trust will review projects of more than 10,000 acres in aggregate (including previously protected parcels and strategic targets).

Grants for land projects require that adequate legal protection be put in place to safeguard ecological and wilderness values. Usually this legal protection will be in the form of a conservation easement conveyed to another conservation organization as a second layer of protection that ensures permanency and biocentric stewardship.

Sweet Water Trust does not give grants for operating support. While we no longer have a small grants program, we expect to make the occasional small grant to an effort that makes a major contribution to achieving the goal of protecting wild lands in the Northern Appalachian Region or to research that helps determine the size and character of core wilderness areas.

Please review our additional guidelines below. Note that the first step to apply for funding is a preliminary email inquiry briefly explaining how the proposed project fits within these guidelines.


Katahdin moose photo
Mount Katahdin, Maine

The vision is of wilderness, of people living in harmony with wild nature protected as an enduring part of the American landscape, an idea shared by the majority of people in the northeastern US, according to regional and national polls. Working to put this vision on the ground is the largest community of private and public groups, arguably, in the world. Our Land Protection Program's goal is to work with these partners to help establish, enlarge, connect and restore core wild areas throughout New England, the Adirondack Region of New York, and contiguous areas of the Canadian provinces.

This funding program gives grants to conservation groups that love and protect wild places. We work with conservation non-profits, government agencies, foundations, businesses, and individual landowners to help find the means and instruments to convert some of the private land at risk in the region into conservation land protected forever as wild.

Sweet Water Trust evaluates the ecological goals and legal instruments for each land project under consideration. A conservation easement that protects land as wild is SWT's preferred tool to ensure permanent, science-based land protection in this region of vast stretches of private land. Conservation biology guides our work with others to design conservation strategies that attempt to protect habitat at the scale needed to halt local extinctions of native species. And while SWT relies on the best available science to guide us, our motivation comes from glimpses of a bittern in high grass, howls and birdsong, a good storm at a bad time in a wild place, and feeling dwarfed by massive trees seeded in the time of barely known ancestors and living on beyond us.


Please consider the following criteria before applying for a Wild Lands, Wild Waters grant:

Habitat. Land needs to be protected at a scale and wildness that will ensure the flourishing of native species. We recommend visiting the Why Wild section of this site and particularly the link to the report "Determining the Size of Eastern Forest Reserves". A few small grants may be given to increase knowledge of terrestrial and aquatic habitat to better design conservation.

Water. Proposals should include discussions of water resources such as headwater and other streams, lakes, ponds, marshes, wetlands and estuaries. Sweet Water Trust will evaluate how well the project protects these systems.

Management. Land will be allowed to evolve naturally with minimal interference. No commercial extraction will take place. Road-building will be curtailed. Use of motorized vehicles will be prohibited.

Roadlessness. Wherever possible, roads will be retired. Proposals will be evaluated in part on road density. We may consider funding for road removal.

Acreage. Bigger is better. In general, we will only evaluate proposals for core areas of 10,000 acres and larger in aggregate (the project proposed may be for a smaller piece of the core area).

Katahdin moose photo
      Alder Stream, Maine / Jim Northup

Connectivity. Wild areas must be connected to help ensure the integration of the whole landscape.

Elevation. In mountainous areas a range of elevation needs to be protected. Historically the mid or lower elevation areas, where most natural communities are and most wildlife live, have been left unprotected or protected for extractive uses. See the Conservation and Elevation section of the Why Wild page.

Restoration. Land does not have to be pristine to be considered for a grant. In this unusually resilient region, time and/or active ecological restoration will heal many past human alterations. Please discuss the condition of the land, and restoration actions you are considering.

Easements. Conservation land must be protected at a landscape scale by a conservation easement to protect its wilderness values, or through a state or federal forever wild or wilderness designation. The Principles and Values listed above should receive strong protection under the conservation easement. It takes centuries for nature to create an old-growth ecosystem, but it may take mere days to clear it away. Strategic lands need protection from the effects of short-term political and economic decision-making.

Endowments. An endowed stewardship fund is critical to protect land into the future.

Partners. We enjoy working with partners who think big, abundantly, and reverentially about wild places. We like to stimulate partnerships with other land trusts and funding sources.

Leverage. Sweet Water Trust favors leveraging the foundation's limited resources by making challenge grants and otherwise encouraging matching contributions from other donors.

To apply for a Wild Lands, Wild Waters grant:  please contact Jennifer Melville at We do not accept unsolicited proposals.