The Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) provides financial and technical assistance to help conserve agricultural lands and wetlands and their related benefits.
- ALE: Under the Agricultural Land Easement (ALE) component, NRCS helps organizations protect working agricultural lands and limit non-agricultural uses of the land, through their existing easement programs.
- WRE: Under the Wetland Reserve Easement (WRE) component, NRCS helps landowners to restore, protect and enhance enrolled wetlands.
How to Apply
NRCS accepts ACEP applications on a continuous basis but has established “cut-off" or submission deadline dates for evaluation, ranking and approval of eligible applications. ACEP is open to all eligible individuals or organizations, and submitted applications may be considered or evaluated in multiple funding pool opportunities.
Due Dates for Fiscal Year 2016 Funding Pools
December 23, 2015 - Wetland Reserve Easements (WRE)
A NRCS-CPA-1200 form is due from the eligible landowner to their local USDA Service Center’s NRCS Office. Applications will be ranked using the WRE Ranking Worksheet FY-2016.
January 15, 2016 - Agricultural Land Easements (ALE)
A full application package is due from the eligible partner organization to the NRCS Virginia State Office Easement Staff. ALE application details will be provided by December 10.
Agricultural Land Easements (ALE)
Benefits: Agricultural Land Easements (ALE) 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 offers additional public benefits, including environmental quality, historic preservation, wildlife habitat and protection of open space.
Eligible land for ALE includes cropland, rangeland, 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.
Enrollment through ALE: NRCS enters into cooperative agreements with eligible partners. Each easement is required to have an ALE plan that promotes the long-term viability of the land.
Assistance: 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 rangeland, pastureland and shrub land.) Eligible partners include Indian tribes, state and local governments and non-governmental organizations that have farmland or grassland protection programs.
Under ALE, 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 (WRE)
Benefits: Wetland Reserve Easements (WRE) furnish 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.
Eligible land for WRE includes farmed or converted wetland that can be successfully and cost-effectively restored. NRCS will prioritize applications based the easement’s potential for protecting and enhancing habitat for migratory birds and other wildlife.
Enrollment through WRE: NRCS enters into purchase agreements with eligible private landowners or Indian tribes that include the right for NRCS to develop and implement a wetland reserve restoration easement plan. This plan restores, protects, and enhances the wetland’s functions and values.
Assistance: NRCS also provides technical and financial assistance directly to private landowners and Indian tribes to restore, protect, and enhance wetlands through the purchase of a Wetland Reserve Easement (WRE) For acreage owned by an Indian tribe, there is an additional enrollment option of a 30-year contract.
For WRE, 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.
Through WRE, 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 between 75 to 100 percent of the restoration costs.
30-year Easements – Under 30-year easements, NRCS pays 50 to 75 percent of the easement value for the purchase of the easement for 30 years. Additionally, NRCS pays between 50 to 75 percent of the restoration costs.
Wetland Reserve Enhancement Partnership (WREP)
The 2014 Farm Bill replaced the Wetland Reserve Enhancement Program with the Wetland Reserve Enhancement Partnership as an enrollment option under ACEP – WRE. WREP continues to be a voluntary program through which NRCS signs agreements with eligible partners to leverage resources to carry out high priority wetland protection, restoration and enhancement and to improve wildlife habitat.
Application due dates for fiscal year 2016 will be announced later in the year.
Partner benefits through WREP agreements include:
- Wetland restoration and protection in critical areas
- Cost-share restoration or enhancement beyond NRCS requirements through leveraging of resources
- Participation in the management or monitoring of selected project locations
- Ability to use innovative restoration methods and practices
ACEP Program Manual (read online HTML; generate 3.8MB printer-friendly PDF, without Subpart U - Exhibits )
To learn how to get started with NRCS, visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/getstarted
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