Explore Your Options for a Conservation Easement During American Wetlands Month
Richmond, May 14, 2012 – Did you know that many tracts of land in Virginia are actually farmed or converted wetlands? Many Virginia landowners are recognizing the significance of these resources and protecting and restoring them through the Wetlands Reserve Program.
In FY2011, Virginia NRCS provided $1,068,954 in financial assistance to landowners to protect 288 acres of wetland through the Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP). This voluntary conservation program offers funding for perpetual easements and 30-year-term easements to restore, protect, and enhance wetlands while maximizing wildlife benefits.
WRP helps landowners to restore former wetlands with a history of agriculture that have been degraded by grazing or other uses. Landowners receive cash payments and restoration cost share while retaining ownership of the land. NRCS also offers Restoration Agreements which provide up to 75 percent of the costs to restore wetlands. Eligible land includes:
Landowners are paid per acre for their WRP easement. This payment is the lower of two options: the price the landowner offers in the application or NRCS’s published per acre price for the geographical area. Virginia’s proposed geographic area rates for perpetual easements range from $ 2,300 to $5,000 per acre pending approval. Applications offering a lower price are more competitive.
The cumulative benefits of these wetlands reach well beyond their boundaries to improve watershed health, the vitality of agricultural lands, and the aesthetics and economies of local communities. Restored wetlands provide habitat for migratory birds and other wildlife, protect and improve water quality, and increase groundwater recharge. Nationwide, more than 11,000 of America’s private landowners have voluntarily enrolled over 2.3 million acres in WRP.
American Wetlands Month is a great time to explore opportunities for protecting and restoring wetlands on your agricultural land. To learn more about WRP, contact your local NRCS office or visit the website at www.va.nrcs.usda.gov.