Virginia Announces Wetland Easement Signups Under New Farm Bill
Richmond, March 28, 2014 – USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service is now accepting applications from landowners interested in restoring, protecting, and enhancing wetlands on their property through the 2014 Farm Bill’s new Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP).
ACEP consolidates the former Grasslands Reserve Program, Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program, and Wetlands Reserve Program under one heading with two types of easement offerings: Agricultural Land Easements (ALE) and Wetland Reserve Easements (WRE). Though program signup is continuous, funding selections are made at specific times during the year. The deadline for the next batching period for the WRE component is May 2, 2014.
To be considered eligible for WRE, applicants must have farm records established with USDA's Farm Service Agency and the land must have been owned for two years (a reduced time under the new Farm Bill.). Eligible land includes farmed wetlands that can be successfully and economically restored, former or degraded wetlands with a history of agricultural use, wetlands farmed under natural conditions, and “prior-converted” cropland converted on or before December 23, 1985. CRP land established with trees is also now eligible through a waiver process for enrollment.
Landowners have two options under WRE:
Permanent Easements – NRCS pays 100 percent of the easement value for the purchase of the easement. Additionally, NRCS pays up to 100 percent of the restoration costs.
30-Year Easements – NRCS pays the landowner 50 to 75 percent of the easement value for the purchase of the easement and 50 to 75 percent of the restoration costs.
NRCS enters into purchase agreements with these landowners that include the right for NRCS to both 1) purchase easement rights, and 2) develop and implement a wetland restoration plan to restore and protect its function and values. These individuals offer an amount they are willing to accept for the easement purchase. 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. Virginia geographic area rate caps for permanent easements range from $2,240 - $5,000 per acre depending on land type and location. The 30-year easements rates are slightly lower.
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. To learn more about WRE, contact your local NRCS office or visit our website at www.va.nrcs.usda.gov.