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Wetlands Reserve Easement (WRE)

 
This video features the sights and sounds of a wetlands in Warren County, New Jersey. You can hear the Spring Peepers (small tree frogs) singing.

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. 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.

Benefits

  • 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

Enrollment Options

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. To streamline easement acquisition, NJ NRCS contracts an Area Wide Market Analysis to determine Geographic Area Rate Caps for specific land uses. Using an Area Wide Market Analysis allows landowners to make an informed decision early in the process. If the associated land use is not covered under the Area Wide Market Analysis, then the easement compensation value will be determined by an appraisal using the Uniform Standards for Professional Appraisal Practices. The landowner may also voluntarily offer an amount less than the fair market value of the land.

Per Acre Approved Geographic Area Rate Caps for 2014
Regions Cropland/ Pasture Rate Woodland Rate Specialty Cropland Rate Bog Turtle Rate
Warren  and Sussex Counties $6,460 $3,420 $6,460 $6,460
Morris, Hunterdon, Somerset, Middlesex, Mercer, and Monmouth Counties $7,000 $5,000 $8,716 $8,716
Burlington, Ocean, Camden, and Atlantic Counties $7,000 $5,000 $8,716 $8,716
Gloucester, Salem, Cumberland, and Cape May Counties $6,840 $4,950 $6,840 $6,840
Bergen, Passaic, Essex, Hudson, and Union Counties 95% of the appraised value not to exceed $7,000 90% of the appraised value not to exceed $5,000 95% of the appraised value not to exceed $8,716 95% of the appraised value not to exceed $8,716

Eligibility

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.

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.

To learn how to get started with NRCS, visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/getstarted

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