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Agricultural Conservation Easement Program

ACEP_National

 
Benefits

What's New in ACEP?

ACEP is a new program that consolidates three former programs – the Wetlands Reserve Program, Grassland Reserve Program and Farm and Ranch Land Protection Program.

ACEP Program Manual (HTML | generate 3.8MB PDF)

ACEP Fact Sheet (PDF, 1.2MB)

ACEP Fact Sheet in Spanish (PDF, 1.2MB)

Five Steps Fact Sheet (PDF, 1MB)

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.

-- FY 2015 Sign-up closes May 15, 2015 --

Agricultural Land Easements (ALE)

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.

ALE 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.

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.

How to Apply for Agricultural Land Easements

To enroll land through agricultural land easements, eligible partners must submit complete application packages to NRCS to be considered for conservation easement assistance on eligible land. A complete ACEP-ALE application must contain all of the following:

A complete application package will also include all of the necessary information to:

  • Document the entity’s commitment to long-term conservation of agricultural lands through the use of voluntary conservation easements that protect farm or ranch lands from conversion to nonagricultural uses.
  • Document the entity’s capability and record of acquiring, holding, managing, and enforcing conservation easements.
    • This must include a citation to the State conservation easement enabling statute that the entity will rely on to acquire the agricultural land easements.
    • If the entity is a State, local, or Tribal government, then this must include a citation to the entity’s statutory authority to acquire conservation easements consistent with the purposes of ACEP-ALE.
  • Document the entity capacity to monitor and enforce the agricultural land easements.
  • Document or certify that, at the time of application, the eligible entity has the required funds available for each parcel.
  • Provide evidence of current registration in DUNS and SAM for each holding and co-holding eligible entity.
  • Provide evidence of entry in SCIMS.
  • Include a copy of the written pending offer for each parcel that the entity is submitting for cost-share assistance.

Specific information regarding each parcel included in the application package will include:

  • A map showing the location of the parcel.
  • Evidence and map of legal and physical access to the parcel.
  • A map or aerial image showing the proposed parcel boundaries and larger property boundaries if different than the parcel boundaries.
  • A map showing each of the following that are applicable:
    • The location and acres of the prime, unique, or statewide and locally important soil in each parcel
    • The location and acres of lands where grazing uses and related conservation values would be protected
    • The location and acres of grasslands of special environmental significance
    • The location, number, and acreage of historical or archaeological sites proposed to be protected
  • If the presence of historical or archeological sites is the basis for land eligibility, a brief description of the site’s significance and documentation of the site’s formal listing on the National, Tribal, or State register or eligibility for listing in the National register must be included in the application. NRCS State office will review this documentation to determine the entity’s ability to manage and enforce the easement for historic preservation purposes.
  • A narrative description of how the protection of the parcel will further a State or local policy consistent with ACEP, if this is the basis for the parcel’s land eligibility.
  • A map showing the location of other protected land in relation to parcel, if applicable.
  • Estimated agricultural land easement value, costs, and contributions for each parcel.
  • Narrative statement or map showing the parcel’s accessibility to agricultural markets.
  • Narrative statement or map showing the parcel’s access to existing agricultural infrastructure, on- and off-farm, and other support systems.
  • Narrative statement or map showing the threat of conversion or fragmentation (either from non-agricultural development or cropland conversion of grassland) for each parcel.
  • Ownership of subsurface mineral rights and any required water rights for each parcel.
  • Copies of any phase I environmental site assessments, if available.
  • Copies of appraisal reports or title reports for the parcel, if available.

Wetland Reserve Easements (WRE)

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.

WRE Eligibility

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 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 for Wetland Reserve Easements

To enroll land through wetland reserve easements, landowners may apply at any time and fill out the
application form and take it to your local USDA Service Center.

Archives

Contact

Kimberly Burr
Acting Easement Specialist
Voice: 801-524-4561
Email: Kimberly.Burr

Pedro Ramos
Assistant State Conservationist - Programs
Voice: 801-524-4552
Email: Pedro Ramos