Wetland Reserve Program (WRP) from a Landowner Perspective
Mike Jones, Riverside Farms, LLC - Springfield, Kentucky
Mike Jones is the owner/operator of Riverside Farms, LLC located in Washington County, KY. Jones enrolled approximately 63 acres of his farm into the Wetlands Reserve Program in 2008. He is the first landowner in Washington County to enroll in WRP. In addition to his 29 acres of existing wetland habitat, his restoration plan included establishing 7.7 acres of shallow water through the installation of one ditch plug and two dikes. He is also in the process of establishing approximately 30 acres of bottomland hardwood tree plantings and four acres of native warm season grasses to improve wildlife habitat on the easement.
Jones had an existing wetland area that made it difficult to get equipment to the fields and maintain crops in those areas. He talked with Wes Little, Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources (KDFWR) biologist and Joe Carpenter, soil conservationist for NRCS about enrolling a portion of the bottomland in the program. Since enrolling in WRP, Jones has made several improvements to his operation but he says, "the best part is being able to enjoy seeing more wildlife on my property from the improved wildlife habitat."
Jones is planning to host a field day for the local conservation district on his property to showcase the success of enrolling in the WRP program. He wants to encourage other local landowners so they can "enjoy their land for years to come," Jones said.
Mark Putman, Hopkinsville, Kentucky
Mark Putman enrolled 39 acres in the northeast part of Christian County. NRCS completed the acquisition process in the fall of 2011 and a cultural resource investigation is scheduled for 2012. Restoration will begin in 2013.
Putman had bottom fields that stayed wet and made it hard to get crops planted and harvested. He went to his local NRCS office to get advice on the problem he was experiencing with these fields and Marty Lewis, soil conservationist, suggested the WRP program. Putman received an offer in August of 2010 and was able to pay down the note and keep his family farm. "It was a real blessing for me," Putman said, "my hats off to NRCS in Hopkinsville, Madisonville, Mayfield, and Lexington."
Putman's advice to other landowners interested in enrolling land in WRP is to be patient. Putnam said, "now that I have more experience with the process I have a better understanding of the huge workload for a relatively small staff." He advises, "When you get the offer it is not like buying a house, you will not close in 90-180 days, so don’t spend it too quickly!"
Once restoration is complete, Putnam will be able to enjoy the enhanced wildlife habitat and hunting opportunities, all thanks to the WRP program that saved his family farm.
Ed Anthony, Paducah, Kentucky
Ed Anthony has 473 acres enrolled in WRP in McCracken County. NRCS purchased the easement in 2000 and completed the tree establishment in 2003 and hydrology development in 2004. The historic flooding of 2011 covered the entire acreage with 6 feet of water but thanks to the WRP restoration on his land, the Anthony farm weathered the flood and will be enjoyed for years to come.
The restoration included 10 water control structures for impoundment of shallow water for moist soil units and green tree reservoirs. The NRCS WRP Team visited the Anthony farm after the flooding and found that all the levees are in good shape and the high water did not impact the function of the structures. Although the flooding impacted the growth of the trees for last year, their survival percentage is high.
Vegetation was sparse after the water receded but the spring has brought new growth and along with it a good turkey population. The land was "covered up with deer," according to Anthony but the flood drove them out. Now the deer are beginning to return and Anthony is looking forward to "enjoyment of the property by my family, whether we are hunting or just watching wildlife," he said.