Conservation, Environment and Public Trails Grant Guidelines

The Conservation, Environment and Public Trails Grant Program supports environmental projects across Santa Barbara County.

Santa Barbara County has a long history of improving the environment, and cherishing and preserving the scenic beauty of the area for future generations. Beginning with one of the most formative events in the modern environmental movement, the blowout at Union Oil’s Platform A in the Santa Barbara Channel on January 28, 1969, and the fouling of the ocean and coastline that occurred, as a result, the community and its nonprofits have been at the forefront of conservation and environment protection.

In recent years, the Santa Barbara Foundation’s investments in the environment have included development of a countywide Food Action Plan and Network, Conservation Blueprint, funding to preserve places such as the Point Sal Reserve and North Campus Open Space, and capacity building for nonprofit organizations. With our funding partners, the Foundation is offering grants to increase environmental sustainability, land conservation, habitat restoration, public trails, and ecosystem health.



Funding can be used for new or existing projects that meet demonstrated need.

In summary, funded organizations will:

  • Carry out projects to address conservation, environment and public trails.
  • Be well-managed, financially viable, and operate effective projects.
  • Have developed short-term and long-term strategies for addressing identified organizational needs.



Priority will be given to organizations that are engaged in one or more of the following:

  • Preserving and ensuring equitable access to the region’s natural resources and trail systems;
  • Community-based restoration projects in wetlands and streams, coastal areas, grasslands, woodlands and other natural areas;
  • Early stage investigation such as appraisal fees, environmental due diligence, and title research, or closing costs for land conservation efforts;
  • Piloting or expanding projects that demonstrate best practices in conservation.

The strongest projects will:

  • Create or expand partnerships, networks and collaborations for greater efficiencies, better delivery of programs, or fresh approaches to solve problems or address needs, gaps, or opportunities.
  • Incorporate a community involvement, awareness or education element.
  • Align with or be a part of a larger plan or strategy such as Santa Barbara County’s Conservation Blueprint, Food Action Plan, Santa Barbara Area Coastal Ecosystem Vulnerability Assessment (SBA CEVA), Coastal Trail Alignment Study, etc.


Criteria by Type of Project

Projects must have clearly defined goals and outcomes and a strategy and timeline in place for achieving the stated goals. If the project is part of a larger or longer-term effort, the applicant must demonstrate how the project relates to future work, including a financial sustainability concept or strategy for scaling up the project. The applicant and/or project partners demonstrate the capacity to manage the scale and scope of the project. Matching or leveraged funding is recommended, but not required.

Trails Access Project Criteria:

  • Projects should provide ecological value, aesthetic improvements or appropriately placed public access (trails, pathways, etc.). This may include restoration of habitat for specific species or general habitat types, or for accommodation of passive recreation and education for people.
  • Applications may include planning for new trails, new trail construction, trail restoration, trail head facilities, lease of heavy equipment, purchase of hand tools to construct/renovate trails, water trail facilities, and educational programs.
  • Land acquisition for trail purposes must have (or be close to securing) all permits and landowner approvals/agreements, and be “shovel ready” within the one-year grant cycle beginning from date of award.

Conservation Project Criteria:

  • Projects should align with a conservation plan or strategy and be recognized as a valuable component of a longer-term plan or vision. This may include providing permanent (or long-term) protection for lands with high ecological or agriculture value, fulfilling a critical link for species, habitats or ecosystem function, or providing passive and educational access for people. Allowable projects include:
    • Planning, feasibility, and study phases for new projects or emerging opportunities for early phases of land acquisition or easements. This may include good-faith deposits to begin landowner negotiations, appraisals, or other land use investigations.
    • Closing or completion costs for land acquisition or easement purchase projects.
    • Efforts to preserve critical habitats or species.
    • Educational projects related to climate resilience, habitats, or threatened species conservation.

Environmental Project Criteria:

  • Project planning, implementation or investigation/research of best practices or innovative approaches must address a specific challenge or opportunity in achieving sustainable practices for land, forestry, or water management.
  • Pilot implementation or facility improvement projects should serve as a model that can be replicated and/or scaled up in the future.
  • Projects with collaborative partners will be most competitive for funding.


Funding Amounts and Duration

The maximum award for Conservation, Environment and Public Trails grants is $25,000. The grant review panel may reduce or increase award amounts at its discretion. The grant period is up to one year from the award date. As a final report for this work, we are planning on gathering data by hosting a convening with other recipients of the program area in 2025 and having grantees complete a pre-convening survey.


Grant Limitations

Grants in the Conservation, Environment and Public Trails Grant program areas are not intended for:

  • Direct purchase of land or easements that have raised less than 90% of funds required
  • Direct support to government agencies or private landowners (grantees must be a 501(c)(3) organization and serve as the primary project lead agency; public or private entities may be part of a collaboration)
  • Endowment
  • Advocacy and lobbying activities

Please visit the Eligibility Criteria & FAQs for a complete list of what the Foundation does not fund.


Eligibility Requirements
  • Grants are available to organizations providing programming in Santa Barbara County
  • Organizations must be certified as tax exempt under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code or use a fiscal sponsor with 501(c)(3) tax status. Applications that do not contain a valid EIN (tax ID) number will not be considered. Organizations using a fiscal sponsor must review the Eligibility Criteria & FAQs for additional information and instructions.


Important Dates
August 15, 2024 Application Deadline
December 2024 Funds Awarded


Application Process

The Conservation, Environment and Public Trails Grant program utilizes an online application. Please follow the instructions below to access, complete and submit your application to the foundation.

  • The Santa Barbara Foundation has switched its grants management system to SmartSimple. Please follow the instructions below on accessing, completing, and submitting your application to the foundation.

To Access the SmartSimple Platform

  1. Visit the Santa Barbara Foundations online platform
  2. On the Santa Barbara Foundation SmartSimple platform landing page, on the bottom right, please click on “Register.”
    You will be asked to choose from 3 different entities:

    • Nonprofit
    • Fiscally Sponsored Entity
    • For Profit
  3. After identifying which entity fits your organization, you will be asked to provide some general information about yourself and your organization (If your organization is not found, please use the “click here to add a new organization” link in the instruction box to add manually).
  4. The initial staff contact is the first authorized representative to register and associate their profile account on behalf of an organization. This individual will also be responsible for providing accurate information in the organization profile and updating this information annually. They will also receive email notifications from the platform. Additional organizational contacts can also register and access applications on behalf of an organization already in the system. These additional users will follow the same registration process as the initial organization contact. The system will conduct a duplicate check and associate the user with the existing organization.
  5. You will receive a welcome email confirming that your registration is active. Please click the link included in the email to create a password. After creating your password, you can now access the platform to establish your Organization Profile.
  6. On the top right hand corner you will see the initial of the first name that you registered under. Please click there and a drop-down menu will open. Please select “Organization Profile.” You will be directed to a page with four separate tabs, General, Organization Information, Capacity Building, and Board Information. You will need to answer all mandatory fields in order to access the available grant applications on the platform.

PLEASE NOTE: Once an organization is registered and a profile has been created for a fiscally sponsored organization, please allow up to 24 hours (one business day) for approval to access available applications in the platform.

Contact Information

For questions regarding the Conservation, Environment and Public Trails Grant program area and funding eligibility, please contact Jenny Kearns, Director of Grantmaking, at or (805) 880-9363.

For technical assistance, please contact Maria Caudillo, Community Engagement Coordinator at (805) 880-9362