Wetlands Reserve Program
The Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) is a voluntary program offering landowners the opportunity to protect, restore, and enhance their wetlands. The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) provides technical and financial support for landowners to sell their development rights through a conservation easement for their wetland property and for NRCS to pay to restore its wetland functions and values. Applications for the Wetland Reserve Program are accepted on a continuous sign-up basis and NRCS encourages customers to apply at any time. All applications received prior to the ranking cut-off dates will be evaluated and considered for funding. Subsequent cutoff dates may be established based on the availability of funding.
The first ranking cut-off date is February 15, 2013
The second ranking cut-off date is March 15, 2013
The NRCS goal is to achieve the greatest wetland functions and values, including optimum wildlife habitat, on every acre enrolled in the program. This program offers landowners an opportunity to establish long-term conservation, wildlife habitat and wetland protection. Landowners who choose to participate in WRP may sell a conservation easement or enter into a cost-share restoration agreement with USDA to restore and protect wetlands. The landowner voluntarily limits future use of the land, yet retains private ownership. With landowner input, NRCS develops a plan for the restoration and maintenance of the wetland.
The program offers landowners two options: permanent easements and restoration cost-share agreements for a minimum 10-year duration. A landowner continues to hold record title and control access to the land and conduct limited hunting, fishing, and other undeveloped recreational activities. A landowner may request that additional activities be evaluated to determine if they are compatible uses for the site. This request may include such items as permission to operate water control structures, plant and manage food plots, and manage native grass stands for wildlife. Compatible uses are allowed if they are fully consistent with the protection and enhancement of the wetland function and values.
Landowners interested in participating in WRP should submit an application form NRCS-CPA-1200 to the local Natural Resources Conservation Service office (please see link below). Eligibility for the easement option requires seven years of ownership (some exceptions apply) prior to submitting an application, and the landowner must be able to provide evidence of control of the land, including recorded access rights. In addition, participants must also be in compliance with High Erodible Land and Wetland Conservation Provisions of the Farm Bill and also meet Adjusted Gross Income limitations. For consideration under the easement option, applicants should also submit a copy of the grant deed indicating that they meet the ownership requirement.
Eligible land includes areas of historic wetlands that have been degraded or converted to agricultural use, and that have the potential for restoring natural hydrology functions. Also, land that has been substantially altered by human manipulation of the landscape, and where present flooding and inundation make restoration of wetland functions and values likely. In summary, WRP targets land which was formerly wetland where planned restoration has the potential to maximize wildlife habitat, improve water quality, and aid in the recovery of special status species. Adjacent parcels of non-cropped natural areas, slough channels, and uplands are also eligible if they significantly contribute to the habitat objectives of the project as determined by NRCS.
Ranking and Evaluation
NRCS ranks eligible projects according to both environmental benefits and cost-analysis. Environmental factors include assessments of future habitat diversity, benefits to special status animals, restoration of hydrology, the ability of the project to reduce habitat fragmentation, size of the offering, percent of eligible land, and improved water quality. Economic considerations include the combination of the cost of the easement payment and the cost of habitat restoration, with less expensive projects potentially receiving proportionately greater points. In addition, partnership contributions, either from the landowner, or from a cooperating agency or non-profit organization, can result in even higher ranking scores.
For More Information
Please contact your local USDA Service Center’s District Conservationist
Assistant Director for Programs
Phone: (808) 541-2600 x 112
Phone: (907) 283-8732 ext. 114