Wetlands Reserve Easement (WRE)
Sign-up for Wetland Reserve Enhancement Partnership Projects by July 31, 2015
NRCS is accepting project applications from states, local units of governments, and non-governmental organizations interested in leveraging resources to voluntarily protect, restore and enhance critical wetlands on private 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 (WREP). WREP is an enrollment option under the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program's Wetland Reserve Easement component. Applications must be submitted by July 31, 2015 to be considered for fiscal year 2015 funding. Projects can range from individual to watershed-wide to ecosystem-wide.
WREP Proposal Requirements and Program Announcement (pdf)
The Agricultural Conservation Easement Program, Wetlands Reserve Easement (WRE) component is a voluntary program that provides an opportunity for landowners to receive financial assistance to enhance wetlands in exchange for retiring marginal land from agricultural production. WRE provides technical and financial assistance to eligible landowners to address wetland, wildlife habitat, soil, water, and related natural resource concerns on private lands in an environmentally beneficial and cost-effective manner
- Receive financial and technical assistance for protecting and restoring wetland functions and values
- Reduce problems associated with farming potentially difficult areas
- Provide habitat for fish and wildlife, including threatened and endangered species, improve water quality by filtering sediments and chemicals, reduce flooding, recharge groundwater, protect biological diversity and provide opportunities for educational, scientific and limited recreational activities
Through the wetland reserve easement component, landowners may enroll eligible land to grant the United States a conservation easement to restore, protect, manage, maintain, enhance, and monitor the wetland and other natural values of the easement area. Applicants may enroll their entire land area or a portion of their land. There is no minimum size area required for enrollment.
For wetland reserve easements, NRCS pays all costs associated with recording the easement in the local land records office, including recording fees, charges for abstracts, survey and appraisal fees, and title insurance.
- Permanent Easements – Through permanent easements, NRCS will pays 100 percent of the easement value to the landowner to convey the easement. Additionally, NRCS pays between 75 to 100 percent of the restoration costs.
- 30-year Easements – Under 30-year easements, NRCS pays 50 to 75 percent of the easement value for the purchase of the easement. Additionally, NRCS pays between 50 to 75 percent of the restoration costs.
The easement value is determined by the fair market value of the land supported by an individual appraisal meeting the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP) specifications. NRCS will offer a percentage of the fair market value of the land for the easement acquisition based on the approved Geographic Area Rates Caps (GARC) approved by the State Technical Committee. The landowner may also voluntarily offer an amount less than the fair market value of the land.
2015 Geographic Area Rate Cap (GARC):
- 95% of the appraised fair market value for Bog Turtle eligible applications.
- 90% of the appraised fair market value for all other eligible land types.
The land must be privately owned. To offer a conservation easement, the private landowner must have been owned by the same individual or entity for at least 24 months prior to enrolling it in the program, except in certain circumstances.
Eligible land includes:
- Wetlands farmed under natural conditions
- Converted cropland
- Farmed wetland pasture
- Farmland that has become a wetland as a result of flooding
- Riparian areas which link protected wetlands
- Forested wetlands
- Pasture or production forest land where the hydrology has been significantly degraded
- Lands adjacent to protected wetlands that contribute significantly to wetland functions and values
- Previously restored wetlands that need long-term protection
Uses of Wetland Reserve Easements
Participants voluntarily limit future use of the land, but retain private ownership. On acreage subject to a Wetlands Reserve Easement, participants control access to the land and may lease the land for hunting, fishing, and other undeveloped recreational activities. The standard Warranty Easement Deed (NRCS-LTP-30)ï»¿ can be viewed on the eForms site.
NRCS and the landowner jointly determine the restoration plan for the enrolled land. The landowner may implement the plan with NRCS financial assistance, or NRCS may contract directly for the restoration of an acquired easement.
How to Apply
Landowners may file an application for a conservation easement at any time during the year. Applications are grouped for ranking when funds are available, normally once per year. Application form (CPA-1200) may be obtained online at eForms or at any local NRCS Office. Applicants must also provide a copy of their ownership vesting deed at the time of application.
The 2014 Farm Bill replaced the Wetland Reserve Enhancement Program with the Wetland Reserve Enhancement Partnership as an enrollment option under ACEP – WRE. WREP continues to be 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.
Partner benefits through WREP agreements include:
- Wetland restoration and protection in critical areas
- Ability to cost-share restoration or enhancement beyond NRCS requirements through leveraging
- Able to participate in the management or monitoring of selected project locations
- Ability to use innovative restoration methods and practices
To learn how to get started with NRCS, visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/getstarted
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