Mississippi Wetlands Reserve Program
The Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) is the Nation's premier wetlands restoration program. It is a voluntary program that offers landowners the opportunity to protect, restore, and enhance wetlands on their property. The USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) manages the program and provides technical and financial support to help landowners who participate in WRP.
Currently, Mississippi ranks third in the nation for total acres enrolled in WRP. We have over 430 easements that total approximately 150,000 acres in the state. The majority of these easements are located within the Mississippi River Valley region in the western portion of the state. Landowner interest in WRP continues to be high with over 35,000 acres of eligible applications on file.
The emphasis of WRP is to protect, restore, and enhance the functions and values of wetland ecosystems to attain first and foremost:
- habitat for migratory birds and wetland dependent wildlife, including threatened and endangered species,
- protection and improvement of water quality,
- attenuation of water flows due to flooding,>
- recharge of ground water,
- protection and enhancement of open space and aesthetic quality,
- protection of native flora and fauna contributing to the Nation's natural heritage, and
- contribution to educational and scientific scholarship.
Wetlands Reserve Program
- Is a voluntary program offered nationwide.
- Offers payment for wetlands that have previously been drained and converted to agricultural uses.
- Pays up to 100 percent reimbursement for restoration costs; 75% for 30 year easements
- Allows landowners to retain control of access.
- Allows landowners to maintain ownership of land and have the right to hunt, fish, and pursue other recreational uses.
- Provides additional benefits for the entire community such as improved water quality, enhanced habitat for wildlife, reduced soil erosion, and reduced flooding.
To be eligible for WRP, land must be restorable and be suitable for wildlife benefits. This includes:
- Wetlands cleared and/or drained for farming, pasture, or timber production.
- Lands adjacent to restorable wetlands that contribute significantly to wetland functions and values.
- Previously restored wetlands that need long-term protection.
- Drained wooded wetlands where hydrology will be fully restored.
- Existing or restorable riparian habitat corridors that connect protected wetlands.
- Lands substantially altered by flooding where there is a likelihood of successful wetland restoration at a reasonable cost.
WRP offers three options to protect, restore, and enhance wetlands:
30-year easements, or
10-year restoration cost-share agreements
This is a conservation easement in perpetuity. The easement is attached to the property deed, ensuring that future owners of the property will preserve the wetland for generations. USDA will pay 100 percent of the cost of the restoration and legal costs to establish the easement. In addition, the landowner receives a payment for a permanent easement which will be based upon the appraised value of the land.
These easements expire at the end of 30 years. Easement payments are 75 percent of what would be paid for a permanent easement and 75 percent of the restoration costs. USDA will pay legal costs associated with establishing the easement.
Restoration Cost-share Agreements
This is a 10-year agreement to restore degraded or destroyed wetlands. USDA pays up to 75 percent of the cost of the restoration. No easement is placed on the property and there is no easement or other land incentive payment.
How to Enroll
Landowners may sign up any time at the local USDA Service Center. Periodically during the year, NRCS will rank all eligible applications and make offers contingent upon annual funding.
Begin by making an appointment with your local NRCS office. At that appointed time, you may:
- Review eligibility and easement requirements.
- Review and complete Form NRCS-CPA-1200, Conservation Program Application.
- Review NRCS-LTP-31, Agreement for the Purchase of Conservation Easement
- Provide a copy of the property deed and access easement.
The enrollment authority for the Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) expired on September 30, 2013. The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is not authorized to take applications or enter into any new contracts, agreements, or enrollments at this time. The Wetland Reserve Program will not be available for new enrollments until either the current legislation is extended or a new Farm Bill in enacted.
Notification of Acceptance
All applicants will be notified of the status of their application, and whether it has been tentatively accepted. If accepted under the easement options, NRCS will determine the value of the land intended for WRP. The landowner will then be offered a payment amount for either the permanent or 30-year easement option.
Easement Process Begins
Once the landowner accepts the offer by signing the Agreement for the Purchase, the easement acquisition process begins. NRCS will acquire title insurance and other actions necessary to record the easement. The easement is then recorded, the landowner paid, and the wetland restored according to the restoration plan.
For More Information
For information on conservation programs that protect and restore wetlands, contact your local conservation district or USDA Service Center or visit the National WRP Program website.
Ronald McCain, State WRP Coordinator
Phone: 601-965-5196 ext. 154
Email: Ronald McCain