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Agricultural Conservation Easement Program

Agricultural land in Paradise Valley south of Livingston, Montana

What's New in ACEP?

NRCS is accepting applications for partnership wetland restoration projects from eligible conservation partners through July 31, 2015.

2015 ALE Montana Application Checklist (PDF; 112KB)

2015 ALE Montana Ranking Criteria (PDF; 60KB)

2015 ALE Minimum Deed Terms (PDF, 399KB)

2015 ALE Cooperative Agreement - General (sample PDF; 114KB)

2015 ALE Cooperative Agreement - Grasslands of Special Environmental Significance (sample PDF; 91KB)

2015 WRE Montana Ranking Criteria (XLS; 19KB)

ACEP Program Manual

Pre-publication ACEP Rule for public inspection, on the Federal Register website

A summary of the changes is on the Farm Bill Rules page.

Documents on this page may require Microsoft Excel or Acrobat Reader. If you encounter any problems with the files provided on this page, please contact Programs at 406-587-6970.

The Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) combines NRCS's former Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program, Grassland Reserve Program and Wetlands Reserve Programs. The ACEP, created through the 2014 Farm Bill, funds easements for working agricultural lands and wetland restoration and protection projects. ACEP is comprised of two components: Agricultural Land Easements (ALE) and Wetland Reserve Easements (WRE). The 2014 Farm Bill replaced the Wetland Reserve Enhancement Program (WREP) with the Wetland Reserve Enhancement Partnership as an enrollment option under ACEP – WRE.

Signup for Wetland Reserve Enhancement Partnership projects NEW

NRCS is accepting project applications from states, local units of governments, non-governmental organizations and American Indian tribes interested in leveraging resources to voluntarily protect, restore and enhance critical wetlands on private and tribal agricultural land nationwide.

NRCS is making $17.5 million in financial and technical assistance available to conservation partners for this purpose through its Wetland Reserve Enhancement Partnership or WREP. WREP is an enrollment option under the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program’s Wetland Reserve Easement component. Applications must be submitted to NRCS’s state offices by July 31, 2015 to be considered for fiscal year 2015 funding

Agricultural Land Easements (ALE):
ALE easements would prevent productive working lands from being converted to non-agricultural uses and maximize protection of land devoted to food and fiber production. Cropland, rangeland, grassland, pastureland and nonindustrial private forestland are eligible. 

Wetland Reserve Easements (WRE):
WRE easements would restore and enhance wetlands and improve wildlife habitat. Eligible lands include farmed, drained, or converted wetlands that can be successfully and cost-effectively restored. Wetlands that have been previously restored through other state, federal, or private programs, but not protected are also eligible.

The Wetland Reserve Enhancement Partnership is an enrollment option under WRE. WREP is a voluntary program through which NRCS signs agreements with eligible partners to leverage resources to carry out high priority wetland protection, restoration and enhancement and to improve wildlife habitat.

Landowner Guide to NRCS Wetland Reserve Easements in Montana (PDF; 960 KB)

Fiscal Year 2015 Signup

Landowners and entities interested in using conservation easements to address natural resource concerns can submit applications at any time to a USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service office. Applications submitted by May 15, 2015 are being considered for fiscal year 2015 ACEP funding. Though signup is continuous, funding selections are made at specific times during the fiscal year.

  • To enroll land through a Wetland Reserve Enhancement Partnership (WREP) project, proposals must be submitted to the NRCS state office by July 31, 2015.
  • To enroll land through ALE, eligible partners may submit proposals to the NRCS state office to acquire conservation easements on eligible land.
  • To enroll land through WRE, landowners may apply at any time at the local USDA Service Center.

Information on the National NRCS Web Site

The official notice of the proposed ACEP interim final rule can be found in the Federal Register.  Electronic comments during the 60-day comment period must be submitted through  Comments also can be hand carried or mailed to Public Comments Processing, Attn: Docket No. NRCS-2014-0011, Regulatory and Agency Policy Team, Strategic Planning and Accountability, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service, 5601 Sunnyside Avenue, Building 1-1112D, Beltsville, MD 20705.

Prior-Year Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) Montana Archives

Archived Information on Former Easement Programs in Montana

The Agricultural Act of 2014 established the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP). It repeals the Farm and Ranch Land Protection Program (FRPP), the Grassland Reserve Program (GRP), and the Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) but does not affect the validity or terms of any FRPP, GRP, or WRP contract, agreement or easement entered into prior to the date of enactment on February 7, 2014 or any associated payments required to be made in connection with an existing FRPP, GRP, or WRP contract, agreement or easement.


Lisa McCauley, Easement Specialist
Phone: 406-587-6970
Email: Lisa.McCauley