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Leon County landowners realize benefits of Wetlands Reserve Program

Leon County landowners realize benefits of Wetlands Reserve Program

Story by Beverly Moseley

Bruce Barber and Terry Long are avid outdoorsmen on a mission. Their goal is to return the Leon County land they co-own back to its natural state.

The Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP), administered by the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service, has provided the landowners with the financial and technical assistance needed to accomplish their dream.

�We felt this area was such a unique area. It deserved the time and effort,� said Barber of Bullard, Texas. �Our long term goal is to turn it back into what it looked like.�

Barber, and Long of Grapeland, Texas, own more than 500 acres in Leon County. An estimated 142 acres of that land has been restored back into wetlands using water control structures such as dikes. The landowners plan to restore an additional 188 acres under the wetlands restoration program.

They already are realizing benefits to the wildlife populations in the area. Barber said they consistently see Bald Eagles soaring over the area.

Long said: �If it pertains to wildlife, we�ll do it. One thing we�re thankful for is nobody can come in here and take it down and destroy it. It�s here to stay. That is what I like about WRP.�

Wetlands can provide habitat for wildlife, improve water quality, reduce flooding and recharge groundwater. These lands also help to restore and protect plant and wildlife diversity.
The men spend countless hours enjoying the restored wetland�s aesthetic value and recreational opportunities.

�They have the first WRP land in Leon County. It was a learning experience for myself, as well as the landowners,� said Floyd Nauls, a NRCS district conservationist, who has worked closely with Barber and Long.

Nauls said interest in WRP, along with NRCS� Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program or WHIP, has increased since the wetland restoration of Barber and Long�s land.

�In Leon County you have quite a few absentee landowners. WRP is a program they can enroll their land in and enjoy the wildlife benefits, along with the aesthetic value and hunting opportunities,� Nauls said.

WRP is a voluntary program. Its intended use is to restore, protect and enhance wetlands. Landowners enrolled in the program are asked to retire eligible land from production agriculture. The 2008 Farm Bill determines the easement value. This value is based on the lowest of the fair market value of the land, the geographic area rate cap or the landowner�s offer.

The program offers three easement options.

  • A permanent conservation easement that last into perpetuity. NRCS will pay for the easement and 100 percent of the costs of restoring the wetland.
  • A 30-year conservation easement. These payments are 75 percent of the value of a permanent easement.
  • A restoration cost-share agreement. The landowner enters into a minimum 10-year agreement to restore degraded or lost wetland habitat. NRCS will pay to the landowner 75 percent of the restoration costs.

There are restrictions to WRP land use.

Nauls said these restrictions can include grazing capabilities, as well as harvesting timber.

He added that compatible-use agreements can be obtained to possibly implement other practices on the land.

The enrollment process can take longer than other Farm Bill programs, Nauls said, adding that �the landowner needs to be aware of that and have patience.�

NRCS has field offices located in almost every county in Texas. Landowners can find contact information on these offices, along with information on WRP, at www.tx.nrcs.usda.gov.

�The door is always open at the NRCS office to inquire about any Farm Bill program, especially WRP,� Nauls said. �This program could be one that landowners might want to explore.�
 

 

Wetlands in Leon County

Jacob Shaffer, Bruce Barber, J.R. Sandel and Terry Long

Bruce Barber and Terry Long co-own more than 500 acres in Leon County, Texas. An estimated 142 acres of that land has been restored back into wetlands using water control structures such as dikes. The landowners plan to restore an additional 188 acres under the Wetlands Reserve Program administered by the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

(From left to right) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) employee Jacob Shaffer, landowner Bruce Barber, NRCS employee, J.R. Sandel and landowner Terry Long, review future Wetland Reserve Program contract plans for Barber and Long�s Leon County land.