The Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) provides financial and technical assistance to help conserve agricultural lands and wetlands and their related benefits. Under the Agricultural Land Easements component, NRCS in Virginia assists state and local governments and non-governmental organizations protect working agricultural lands and limit non-agricultural uses of the land. Under the Wetlands Reserve Easements component, NRCS helps private landowners to restore, protect and enhance enrolled wetlands.
What's New in ACEP?
ACEP is a new program that consolidates three former programs – the Wetlands Reserve Program, Grassland Reserve Program and Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program.
Agricultural Land Easements protect the long-term viability of the nation’s food supply by preventing conversion of productive working lands to non-agricultural uses. Land protected by agricultural land easements provides additional public benefits, including environmental quality, historic preservation, wildlife habitat and protection of open space.
Wetland Reserve Easements 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.
Agricultural Land Easements
NRCS provides financial assistance to eligible partners for purchasing Agricultural Land Easements that protect the agricultural use and conservation values of eligible land. In the case of working farms, the program helps farmers and ranchers keep their land in agriculture. The program also protects grazing uses and related conservation values by conserving grassland, including pastureland and shrubland. Eligible partners include state and local governments and non-governmental organizations that have farmland or grassland protection programs.
Under the Agricultural Land component, NRCS may contribute up to 50 percent of the fair market value of the agricultural land easement. Where NRCS determines that grasslands of special environmental significance will be protected, NRCS may contribute up to 75 percent of the fair market value of the agricultural land easement.
Wetland Reserve Easements
NRCS also provides technical and financial assistance directly to private landowners to restore, protect, and enhance wetlands through the purchase of a wetland reserve easement.
Through the wetland reserve enrollment options, NRCS may enroll eligible land through:
Permanent Easements – Permanent Easements are conservation easements in perpetuity. NRCS pays 100 percent of the easement value for the purchase of the easement. Additionally, NRCS pays 75 to 100 percent of the restoration costs.
30-year Easements – 30-year easements expire after 30 years. Under 30-year easements, NRCS pays 50 to 75 percent of the easement value for the purchase of the easement. Additionally, NRCS pays 50 to 75 percent of the restoration costs.
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.
Land eligible for agricultural easements includes cropland, grassland, pastureland and nonindustrial private forest land. NRCS will prioritize applications that protect agricultural uses and related conservation values of the land and those that maximize the protection of contiguous acres devoted to agricultural use.
Land eligible for wetland reserve easements includes farmed or converted wetland that can be successfully and cost-effectively restored. NRCS will prioritize applications based on the easement’s potential for protecting and enhancing habitat for migratory birds and other wildlife.
To enroll land through Agricultural Land Easements, NRCS enters into cooperative agreements with eligible partners. Each easement is required to have an agricultural land easement plan that promotes the long-term viability of the land.
To enroll land through Wetland Reserve Easements, NRCS enters into purchase agreements with eligible private landowners that include the right for NRCS to develop and implement a wetland reserve easement restoration plan. This plan restores, protects, and enhances the wetland’s functions and values.
How to Apply
All NRCS easement programs are voluntary. We provide technical help and financial assistance, but local landowners and organizations are needed to make NRCS easement programs successful.
To enroll land through Agricultural Land Easements (ALE), eligible partners may submit proposals to NRCS to acquire conservation easements on eligible land. A complete application package consists of these completed forms (links below):
- Entity Application
- Parcel Sheet
- Ranking Worksheet
- Cash Waiver Worksheet if applicable
The application package should be submitted in the form of one paper copy and one CD electronic copy, to this address: State Conservationist, Attention: ACEP Easements, 1606 Santa Rosa Road, Suite 209, Richmond, VA 23229-5014.
Due dates for application packages to arrive at the Richmond VA State Office are:
November 21, 2014 – First batch.
December 19, 2014 – Second batch.
To enroll land through Wetland Reserve Easements (WRE), landowners may apply at any time at the local USDA Service Center.
ACEP Fact Sheet
To learn how to get started with NRCS, visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/getstarted
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