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Wetlands Reserve Program

The 2014 Farm Bill streamlines and consolidates three former programs, the Wetlands Reserve Program, Grassland Reserve Program, and Farm and Ranch Land Protection program into a new program, Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP). Although WRP, GRP, and FRPP were repealed in the 2014 Farm Bill, all existing easements remain valid. New sign-up and program information for ACEP will be announced as it becomes available.

Hamilton Park wetland restorationThe Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) is a voluntary program that provides technical and financial assistance to eligible landowners to address wetland, wildlife habitat, soil, water, and related natural resource concerns on private lands in an environmentally beneficial and cost-effective manner. The program provides an opportunity for landowners to receive financial incentives to enhance wetlands in exchange for retiring marginal land from agriculture.

The following documents require Adobe Acrobat.
WRP Fact Sheet (150 kb)
Applying for Financial Assistance (67 kb) - also available in html format
DUNS/CCR Fact Sheet (246 kb) - Information for entities, also available in html format
Application Documents

Benefits

Many New Jersey landowners have taken advantage of opportunities available through WRP. Participants in WRP benefit by:

  • Receiving financial and/or technical assistance in return for protecting and restoring wetland functions and values;
  • Seeing a reduction in problems associated with farming potentially difficult areas; and
  • Having incentives to develop wildlife recreational opportunities on their land.

Wetlands benefit New Jersey by providing fish and wildlife habitat; improving water quality by filtering sediments and chemicals; reducing flooding; recharging groundwater; protecting biological diversity; as well as providing opportunities for educational, scientific, and recreational activities.

spring peeperCheck out this video that features the sights and sounds of a wetlands in Warren County, New Jersey. You can hear the Spring Peepers (small tree frogs) singing. (YouTube video hosted by the Firman E. Bear Chapter of SWCS)

Eligibility

Land is not eligible if it is owned by any governmental entity. To offer a conservation easement, the private landowner must have been owned by the same individual or entity for at least 7 years prior to enrolling it in the program, except in certain circumstances. To participate in a restoration cost-share agreement, the land must have been damaged in the past through filling or draining, and must now be restorable and suitable for wildlife benefits. Eligible land includes:

  • Wetlands farmed under natural conditions;
  • Prior converted cropland;
  • Farmed wetland pasture;
  • Farmland that has become a wetland as a result of flooding;
  • Riparian areas which link protected wetlands;
  • Forested wetlands;
  • Pasture or production forest land where the hydrology has been significantly degraded;
  • Lands adjacent to protected wetlands that contribute significantly to wetland functions and values; and
  • Previously restored wetlands that need long term protection.

Uses of WRP Land

Participants voluntarily limit future use of the land, but retain private ownership. On acreage subject to a WRP easement, participants control access to the land and may lease the land for hunting, fishing, and other undeveloped recreational activities.

NRCS and the landowner jointly determine the restoration plan for the enrolled land. The landowner may implement the plan with NRCS financial assistance, or NRCS may contract directly for the restoration of an acquired easement.

Restored wetlandsTarget Species Habitat in New Jersey - Bog Turtle

The bog turtle, American’s smallest turtle, is federally listed as Threatened under the Endangered Species. Bog turtles depend upon a habitat mosaic of open, sunny, spring fed wetlands and scattered dry areas, and can be an indicator of water quality and wetland function. The greatest threats to bog turtles include habitat degradation and fragmentation from land conversion, habitat succession due to invasive exotic and native plants, and illegal trade and collecting.

Private landowners own the majority of remaining bog turtle habitat; good livestock grazing management has helped to conserve bog turtle habitat, demonstrating the important role that agriculture can play in conservation.

The following documents require Adobe Acrobat Reader.
Bog Turtle Fact Sheet (187 kb)
Bog Turtle Focus Area Map (182 kb)

How to Apply

Landowners may file an application for a conservation easement or a restoration agreement at any time during the year. Applications are grouped for ranking when funds are available, normally once per year. Applications (form AD-1153) are available below and at any USDA Service Center office.

Applicants must indicate if the application is for an easement or restoration agreement. Easement applicants must also provide a copy of the deed when applying.

Enrollment Options Include:

Permanent Easement: The landowner receives the lowest of the three values as an easement payment: the site value based on a market analysis, a geographic area rate cap established by the NRCS State Conservationist or the landowner offer.

USDA pays 100 percent of all costs associated with acquiring the easement, and all costs for restoration and future maintenance activities.

Restoration Cost-Share Agreement: Agreements are for a minimum 10-year period, but may be longer. USDA provides technical assistance to design, and reimburses 75 percent of the cost of establishing degraded or lost wetland habitat. During the period of the agreement, any maintenance activities may also be reimbursed at the same rate.

Restoration payments are limited to a maximum of $50,000 per person per year. In addition, landowners must be in compliance with Highly Erodible Land and Wetland conservation provisions of the 1985 Farm Bill, as amended, on all land they farm and with the Adjusted Gross Income provisions of the 2008 Farm Bill.

Enroll a Portion of Your Land

WRP applicants may enroll their entire land area; however it is far more common to enroll just part of a property. There is no minimum size area required for enrollment. Participants with as little as 2 acres have enrolled to obtain the financial assistance to restore wetland areas where crop failures are common, or to enhance aesthetics, wildlife viewing, or hunting opportunities. New Jersey also has had participants enroll as much as 1200 acres in an easement.

Applications must indicate the type of enrollment intended; restoration agreement or easement. After an application is received and the applicant eligibility is established, NRCS will visit the site to determine the eligible acres and complete a site assessment/ranking. Applications are ranked and there is potential funding available throughout the year.

After Restoration, Then What?

NRCS continues to provide assistance to landowners after completion of restoration activities. This assistance may be in the form of reviewing restoration measures, clarifying technical and administrative aspects of the easement and project management needs, and providing basic biological and engineering advice on how to achieve optimum results for wetland dependent species.

At any time, a participant may request that additional activities be evaluated to determine if they are compatible uses for the site. This request may include such items as permission to cut hay, graze livestock, or harvest wood products. Compatible uses are allowed if they are fully consistent with the protection and enhancement of the wetland.

Program Application Documents

Form NRCS-CPA-1200 Application (131 kb)
Form AD 1026 HELWC - Highly Erodible Land Conservation (HELC) and Wetland Conservation (WC) Certification (165 kb)
Form AD 1199a NFC -  Direct Deposit Sign Up (109 kb)
Form CCC 901 - Members Form (253 kb)
Form CCC 926 - Adjusted Gross Income (340 kb)
Form FSA 211 - Power of Attorney (360 kb))

More Information

  • Conservation Success in New Jersey Through the Wetlands Reserve Program
  • National Wetlands Reserve Program
  • History of the Wetlands Reserve Program in New Jersey

  •  Contact:  Gail Bartok, Assistant State Conservationist for Programs (732) 537-6042