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Agricultural Conservation Easement Program

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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 helps Indian tribes, 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 to restore, protect and enhance enrolled wetlands.

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Funding Available for Monarch Butterfly/Pollinator Habitat Restoration Practices

Applications Due: June 10, 2016

The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Iowa is requesting applications from eligible entities to provide the services necessary to improve monarch butterfly/pollinator habitat restoration practices on existing Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) easements and possibly existing Emergency Watershed Protection Program – Floodplain Easements (EWP). The purpose of conservation easements are to restore, protect, and enhance wetlands on eligible lands. The NRCS is requesting proposals from qualified individuals and organizations that share a common interest in the conservation of monarch butterflies and wetland resources throughout Iowa.

Project Description: The overall objective of this work is to improve WRP and EWP vegetation to include plant species that are critical habitat for the Monarch, a butterfly species that has declined precipitously in recent decades and currently undergoing a status review for potential federal listing. Critical habitat includes, but is not limited to, providing for protection, restoration, and/or management of migratory and breeding habitats.

Eligible Practices: Conservation Cover, Herbaceous Weed Control, Prescribed Burning

www.grants.gov (Funding Opportunity Number: USDA-NRCS-IA-ACEP-16-01)

Fiscal Year 2016 Signup

NRCS is accepting applications from eligible entities, American Indian tribes and private landowners who are seeking to conserve agricultural lands and grasslands and protect, restore and enhance critical wetlands and their related benefits. Financial and technical assistance is available to protect the nation’s critical wetlands and grasslands and to ensure productive farms remain in agriculture to feed a burgeoning world population. Conservation easements also provide habitat for diverse wildlife and plant species, including those that are endangered and threatened.

Landowners and entities interested in using conservation easements to address natural resource concerns can submit applications at any time to a USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service office.

How to Apply

To enroll land through agricultural land easements, eligible partners may submit proposals to NRCS to acquire conservation easements on eligible land.

To enroll land through wetland reserve easements, landowners may apply at any time at the local USDA Service Center.

Benefits

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

The Fiscal Year 2016 application cutoff date for Iowa landowners to receive priority funding for Agricultural Land Easements is Feb. 12, 2016.

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 shrubland. Eligible partners include Indian tribes, 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 and Indian tribes to restore, protect, and enhance wetlands through the purchase of a wetland reserve easement.  For acreage owned by an Indian tribe, there is an additional enrollment option of a 30-year contract.

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 between 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 between 50 to 75 percent of the restoration costs. 

Term Easements - Term easements are easements that are for the maximum duration allowed under applicable State laws. NRCS pays 50 to 75 percent of the easement value for the purchase of the term easement. Additionally, NRCS pays between 50 to 75 percent of the restoration costs.

30-year Contracts – Term easements are easements that are for the maximum duration allowed under applicable State laws. NRCS pays 50 to 75 percent of the easement value for the purchase of the term easement.  Additionally, NRCS pays between 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.

Eligibility

Land eligible for agricultural easements 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.

Land eligible for wetland reserve easements 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.

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 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.

More Information

ACEP Fact Sheet (PDF, 1.2MB)

To learn how to get started with NRCS, visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/getstarted

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