NRCS Now Accepting Applications for Wetlands Reserve Program
Richmond, VA, February 7, 2013 – The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service is announcing a new signup period for the Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP), which was re-authorized by Congress with the extension of the 2008 Food, Farm and Jobs Bill (Farm Bill)," said John A. Bricker, NRCS State Conservationist." The re-authorization allows for NRCS to begin taking applications immediately with a cutoff date of March 15, 2013." All applications ranked and inspected that meet the land eligibility requirements will be considered for funding.
The Wetlands Reserve Program is a voluntary program offering landowners the opportunity to protect, restore, and enhance wetlands on their property. Landowners can establish long-term conservation and wildlife practices and protection.
WRP is not just for large farms or large tracts of land. Even small or medium-sized sites that are “meant to be” wetlands offer benefits and value. WRP can help landowners manage wet areas on the farm while offering increased income opportunities. Under WRP, the landowner still controls access to the land and may enjoy recreational uses such as hunting and fishing or other conservation-compatible uses.
WRP offers landowners three options:
Permanent Easements – USDA purchases the easement and pays 100 percent of restoration costs.
30-Year Easements – USDA pays the landowner 75 percent of what would have been paid to purchase a permanent easement and 75 percent of restoration costs.
10-Year Restoration Cost Sharing Agreement – USDA pays the landowner 75 percent of restoration costs with no easement placed on the property.
To be considered eligible for WRP, applicants must have farm records established with USDA's Farm Service Agency and the land must have been owned for seven years. Eligible land includes farmed wetlands that can be successfully and economically restored, wetlands farmed under natural conditions, and “prior-converted” cropland converted on or before December 23, 1985. Former or degraded wetlands that have a history of agricultural use are also eligible.
During the application process, landowners offer an amount they are willing to accept for the easement. NRCS will use the lower of a market analysis-based geographic area rate cap or the landowner’s offer to determine the payment for the easement. The geographic area rate caps in Virginia for permanent easements range from $3,000 - $5,000 per acre for open land and $2,300 - $3,800 for woodland. The rates for 30-year easements are slightly less.
"We encourage interested landowners to visit their local NRCS field office as soon as possible," said Bricker. "NRCS staff is ready to help you work through the application process." To learn more about WRP, contact your local NRCS office or visit our website at www.va.nrcs.usda.gov.