Citizens Groups Can Get Grants to Protect Environmental and Cultural Treasures in the New Jersey Highlands

Local grassroots citizen groups protecting water and other environmental resources or preserving cultural and historic treasures in northern New Jersey’s Highlands Region can apply for grants up to $5000 through the New Jersey Highlands Coalition’s 2019 Small Grants Program.  


Historic projects include “brick-and-mortar” projects for specific historic sites or districts.


Applications must be received by June 18, 2019.  Grants will be presented on October 9 at the N.J. Highlands Coalition’s Annual Meeting.


“Local citizens groups are the heart and soul of the Highlands Coalition,” said Julia Somers, the Coalition’s Executive Director.  “They are on the ground in the 88 Highlands municipalities and provide an early warning about inappropriate development or the loss of historic treasures.  Our grants serve to prime the pump for their battle to protect the water supply depended on by 70 percent of New Jersey’s residents.”


This is the thirteenth year of the Coalition’s Small Grants Program for environmental projects and the fifth year for projects that protect cultural, historic, and archaeological resources in the Highlands, an important part of the Highlands Regional Master Plan.



“A grant from the Highlands Coalition can often help to coalesce the efforts of residents who are aware of a need to be heard on a particular environmental or historic preservation issue” noted George Cassa, Chair of the NJ Highlands Coalition’s Small Grants Committee, “Or they may be unsure of how to navigate the underlying regulatory regimes and the administrative processes that are necessary to influence the outcome.”

Grassroots organizations are defined as non-governmental organizations with a total annual operating budget of less than $200,000.  It is not necessary that the organization be incorporated. Prior to receiving a grant an organization must become a member of the New Jersey Highlands Coalition.  Grants from the Highlands Coalition cannot be used for political purposes.  

A grassroots group may apply for one or more grants, either environmental, cultural or components of both.  But the total amount requested by any one organization cannot exceed $5000.

Grant applications should meet at least one of the following five criteria, with the items at the top getting more weight than those below:


  1. Focus on implementation of the Highlands Regional Master Plan, such as projects that identify, map or verify Highlands natural or cultural resources;
  2. Establish a precedent advancing strong environmental or cultural protection in the Highlands ;
  3. Assist an organization to fight against development in the Highlands that seriously threatens or damages natural or cultural resources;
  4. Support capacity building of Highlands Region grassroots organizations;
  5. Educate the public about Highlands cultural resources or water and other natural resources.


Applicants are advised to view the full guidelines for the program on the Coalition’s website, particularly for cultural and historic grant components which have very detailed requirements.  Go to On the menu bar at the top, place your cursor on “Programs,” then click “Small Grants” in the dropdown menu.


Groups considering applying for the 2019 program can learn from the types of projects that were funded last year.  The following are the grants awarded in 2018.


Boonton Trails Committee to hire a cultural resources expert to assist in drafting the nomination documentation to have the Arch Bridge in Boonton listed on the State Register of Historic Places.


Stop the Mahwah BOE Tower to engage legal assistance to continue opposition to the construction of a cell tower on environmentally sensitive land owned by the Board of Education but designated as wetlands, critical wildlife habitat and a permanent conservation area.


Washington Township Land Trust to produce engineering specs and drawings to repair the outlet column and stabilize the southwest side of Long Valley’s Obadiah LaTourette Grist and Saw Mill, established in 1750 and listed on the State and National Registers of Historic Places.


Applicants seeking more information can contact Julia Somers at 973-588-7190 or


The New Jersey Highlands Coalition represents a diverse network of organizations working to protect the Highlands, ranging from small citizens groups working in one community to large state-wide organizations.  The Coalition works to protect, enhance and restore the New Jersey Highlands and to preserve the quality and quantity of the region’s drinking water upon which 6.2 million people depend. More information is available at


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