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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 (ALE) 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 (WRE) component, NRCS helps to restore, protect and enhance enrolled wetlands.

Agricultural Land Easements (ALE) -- Application deadline May 15, 2015

Purpose

What's New in ACEP?

Agricultural Conservation Easement Program Interim Final Rule - Comments

The public comment period is from February 26, 2015 to April 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, 397 KB)

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)

 

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 provides additional public benefits, including environmental quality, historic preservation, wildlife habitat and protection of open space.

Grasslands of Special Environmental Significance (ALE-GSS)

Protect the long term grazing uses and related conservation values on eligible private range and pasture lands.  The program emphasizes support of grazing operations, maintaining and improving plant and animal biodiversity, and protecting grasslands and shrublands under threat of conversion to cropping, urban development, and other non-grazing uses.

Benefits

NRCS provides financial assistance to eligible partners for purchasing Agricultural Land Easements (ALE) 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 Easement 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.

ACEP-ALE Deed Requirements:

FY 2015 Deed Requirements (PDF, 397 KB)

Easement Compensation

ALE Appraisal Specifications (PDF, 272 KB)

Eligibility

Land eligible for Agricultural Land Easements (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.

ACEP-ALE Grasslands of Special Environmental Significance:  Under ACEP, provisions were included to provide an increased Federal share under ACEP-ALE for enrollment of Grasslands of Special Environmental Significance(GSS).  Definition for GSS is pending.

How to Apply

To enroll land through Agricultural Land Easements (ALE) , eligible partners may submit proposals to NRCS to acquire conservation easements on eligible land. To Apply for Agricultural Land Easements in Oregon-- submit an ENTITY APPLICATION for an AGRICULTURAL LAND EASEMENT (ALE) AGREEMENT (NRCS-CPA-41) and PARCEL SHEET for ENTITY APPLICATION for an AGRICULTURAL LAND EASEMENT (ALE) AGREEMENT (NRCS-CPA-41A), SF-424, SF-424A, AND SF-424B.

Supporting documentation must be submitted with the application in order to determine eligibility.  Below is a guidance document to assist with the application process.

ACEP ALE FY 2015 Helpful Tips (PDF, 357 KB)

Submit complete application packets to:

USDA-NRCS Oregon State Office
1201 NE Lloyd Blvd
Suite 900
Portland, Oregon 97217
ATTN: Bari Williams

Ranking

ACEP-ALE and ACEP-ALE-GSS will be ranked with the same criteria.

ACEP-ALE Ranking Criteria
Copy of Oregon Census Data for ACEP ALE Ranking FY14-15
 

Wetlands Reserve Easements (WRE) -- Application deadline May 8, 2015

Wetlands Reserve Easements (WRE) 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.

Benefits

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.  The Agreement for the Purchase of Conservation Easement (NRCS-LTP-31) will be sent to ranked and selected applications. 

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.
Warranty Easement Deed in Perpetuity (NRCS-LTP-30)
Warranty Easement Deed Exhibit D Water Uses and Water Rights

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. 
Warranty Easement Deed for 30 years (NRCS-LTP-32)
Warranty Easement Deed Exhibit D Water Uses and Water Rights

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 – 30-year contracts are only available to enroll acreage owned by Indian tribes, and program payment rates are commensurate with 30-year easements.
Contract for 30-Year Land Use (For lands Owned by Individual Indians)
Contract for 30-Year Land use (For Non-Tribal-Trust Lands)
Contract for 30-Year Land Use (For Tribal Trust Lands)
Contract for 30-Year Land Use (For Allotted Parcels)
30-Year Contract Exhibit G Water Uses and Water Rights

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.
NOTE: The forms may have minor changes due to ACEP-WRE and landowners will be required to use the updated forms when they are provided.

Easement Compensation

Appraisals for the fair market value of the land offered for enrollment in WRE will be the basis for easement compensation in Oregon.  An offer of enrollment cannot be made in FY 2015 unless a reviewed and approved appraisal is obtained. NRCS will contract and pay for the appraisal.  Once an appraisal is obtained and approved, the Geographic Area Rate Cap will be applied to the Fair Market Value to determine the easement compensation value. 

WRE appraisal specifications

ACEP-WRE: FY 2015 GARCs

The GARC values for permanent easement offers will be 85% of the fair market value for each application based on the USPAP appraised fair market value (FMV). 

The GARC be set at not to exceed $5,000/ac for all enrollment types.  The exception to the $5,000/ac GARC will be in the event there is an enrollment with a high likelihood of successful restoration that will provide habitat needs for federally listed Threatened and Endangered species. The NRCS will be responsible for making the determination of high likelihood of successful restoration.  The GARC will be 85% of the FMV regardless of final dollar per acre valuation in the event there is potential for providing the habitat needs of T&E species.

Compensation for 30-yr easements, 30-yr tribal land use contracts and WRE-reserved rights* easements be set at 75% of the GARC for permanent easements. Reserved Rights easements are only an option for the Southern Oregon North East California regions.

*Reserved Grazing Rights easements will be compensated at 75% of the full GARC for permanent easements and 75% of the 30-yr easement (.75 x .75 = .56), which is 56% of the full GARC. This accounts for the additional retained grazing value to the landowner.

Example:

Appraised Value

GARC

Permanent Easement

30 Year and Reserved Rights Easement (75% of GARC=63.75%)

30 Year Reserved Rights Easement (75% of GARC=63.75% * 75%=47.813%)

$100,000

85% FMV

$85,000

$63,750

$47,812.5

 

Eligibility

Land eligible for Wetlands Reserve Easements (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.

How To Apply

To enroll land through Wetlands Reserve Easements (WRE) in Oregon –submit an Conservation Program Application (NRCS-CPA-1200) with your local NRCS Service Center.  Your local NRCS Representative will work with you to determine eligibility and provide guidance on additional steps to complete the WRE application as needed.

Ranking

ACEP-WRE applications will be ranked for enrollment based on the following:

  1. The likelihood of successful restoration of wetland functions and values, and maximizing wildlife benefits, taking into consideration the cost of restoration, protection, enhancement, maintenance, management, and the cost of acquiring the easement or 30-year contract.
  2. The significance of the wetland functions and values.
  3. The duration of a proposed enrollment, with permanent easements being given priority over nonpermanent easements or 30-year contracts.

Final WRE Ranking Criteria

More Information

ACEP Fact Sheet (PDF, 1.2MB)

Archives

Program Contact

Loren F. Unruh, Leader for Programs, (503) 414-3235.

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

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