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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.

What's New in ACEP?

ACEP Interim Final Rule Public
Comment Period Extension

The public comment period has been extended until to May 28, 2015

View and comment on the ACEP Interim Final Rule on the Regulations.gov website

A summary of the changes is on the NRCS Farm Bill Rules page.

FY 2015 ACEP - ALE Minimum Deed Terms (PDF, 399KB)

 

Applications must be submitted by May 15, 2015 to be considered for fiscal year 2015 ACEP funding.

ACEP Program Manual (HTML | generate 3.8MB PDF )

 

Other Documents

Civil Rights Impact Analysis(PDF, 11MB)
Regulatory Impact Analysis  (PDF,152KB)
Environmental Assessment
Finding of No Significant Impact

FY 2014 Allocations to States
(HTML| PDF)

2015 ACEP Signup

NRCS is accepting ACEP 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.  Though signup is continuous, funding selections are made at specific times during the fiscal year.  Applications must be submitted by May 15, 2015 to be considered for fiscal year 2015 ACEP funding.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fiscal Year 2015 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. NRCS is making $332 million in financial and technical assistance available to protect the nation’s critical wetlands and grasslands and to ensure productive farm and ranchlands 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. Applications must be submitted by May 15, 2015 to be considered for fiscal year 2015 ACEP funding. Though signup is continuous, funding selections are made at specific times during the fiscal year.

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.

 

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.

How to Apply in Illinois

Agricultural Land Easements - eligible partners may submit proposals to NRCS to acquire conservation easements on eligible land.

Wetland Reserve Easements - landowners may apply at any time at the local USDA Service Center.

To apply for ACEP in Illinois, visit your local USDA Service Center, NRCS office.

 

More Information

ACEP Fact Sheet (PDF, 1.2MB)
ACEP Fact Sheet (Spanish PDF, 1247kb)

 

ACEP Program Manual ( read online HTML | generate 3.8MB printer-friendly PDF )

FY 2015 ACEP - ALE Minimum Deed Terms (PDF, 399KB)

ACEP-ALE FY 2014 Cooperative Agreements and Deed Terms (PDF, 1.1MB)

ACEP-ALE FY 2014 Cooperative Agreements and Deed Terms for Grasslands of Special Environmental Significance (PDF, 1.2MB)

 

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

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