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USDA-NRCS and Partners in Georgia Announce Sign-Up for Conservation Easements Through the Regional Conservation Partnership Program

A green conservation easement boundary sign separates a managed pine stand of trees and a more natural forest.

NRCS in Georgia announces a ranking date for the conservation easement portions of the Regional Conservation Partnership Program. Interested producers must apply by December 2, 2023, for their application to be included in this batch of program funding.

Release No.: 03.24

ATHENS, GA, October 26, 2023 — State Conservationist Terrance O. Rudolph, of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and partner groups, announced today a sign-up for four regionally-focused conservation projects funded through the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP). Each project has unique objectives and boundaries discussed below, however the ranking date for all eligible producers in these project areas to apply is December 2, 2023. This sign-up is specifically for the conservation easement activities, both United States-held (U.S.-held) and Entity-held, depending on the RCPP project.  

RCPP in The Farm Bill
First authorized in the 2014 Farm Bill, RCPP has leveraged partner contributions of more than $1 for every $1 invested by USDA, resulting in nearly $3 billion collectively invested in natural resource conservation on private lands. Since inception, RCPP has made 589 awards involving over 3,000 partner organizations. Currently there are 401 active projects, with at least one active project in every state and area. Successful RCPP projects provide innovative conservation solutions, leverage partner contributions, and offer impactful and measurable outcomes.  RCPP Projects may have a combination of up to five conservation activities.  This announcement is specific to RCPP conservation easements.  

An RCPP conservation easement may be either United States-held (U.S.-held) or Entity-held easement.  Both types are available for a wider variety of land uses and conservation purposes then other USDA NRCS easement programs.  These variable land types eligible are driven by the conservation benefits and resource concerns identified in the RCPP project rather than being limited to the land eligibility requirements of the covered programs like the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program. Application, ranking, easement acquisition processes, and contracting for RCPP easements emulate applicable aspects of existing NRCS easement programs.

“RCPP has engaged some great conservation partners to help us take USDA services to more people than before,” said Rudolph. “The projects as part of this sign-up allow for unique options to create lasting conservation benefits for the landowners and their communities.”

RCPP U.S.-held conservation easements
RCPP U.S.-held conservation easements are offered through producer contracts with eligible landowners of eligible lands. U.S.-held easements are in general permanent easements.  The application, ranking, easement acquisition processes, and contracting of RCPP U.S.-held easements emulate applicable aspects of the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) and the Healthy Forest Reserve Program (HFRP).

RCPP Entity-held conservation easements
RCPP awards for entity-held easement will be offered through supplemental agreements and require collaboration between NRCS, a qualified entity, and an eligible landowner. Either a qualified lead partner or a qualified third-party entity that meets the requirements of 7 CFR Section 1468.3 may apply to be the holder of an RCPP entity-held easement. Partners and landowners must follow easement acquisition and closing processes like ACEP-Agriculture Land Easement (ALE).

All easements are perpetual or maximum duration allowed under State law and must be on what's considered private agricultural land, nonindustrial private forest land or associated lands (e.g., riparian areas, floodplains, seasonal or flooded wetlands).

The different types of RCPP easements offered through the four Georgia projects are:

U.S.-Held Easements
US-Held Easement are acquired and held by the United States by and through USDA NRCS. These types of easements must use one of three standard easement deeds provided by NRCS: 

  1. Highly restrictive
  2. Moderately restrictive
  3. Minimally restrictive    

The easement value is determined via appraisal. the landowner is paid a percentage of the value of the easement as broken down:

  • Up to 100% of easement value for a high level of landowner restriction 
  • Up to 75% of easement value for a moderate level of landowner restriction 
  • Up to 50% of easement value for a low level of landowner restriction     

Entity-Held Easements
Entity Held Easement are acquired and held by an eligible entity that meets the requirements of 7 CFR Section 1468.3. These types of easements must attach the minimum deed terms provided by NRCS to the eligible entity’s own conservation easement deed terms. NRCS minimum deed terms available: 

  1. Highly restrictive
  2. Moderately restrictive
  3. Minimally restrictive

NOTE: Two versions of each set of the above-listed deed terms are available, one with and one without the terms related to a U.S. right-of-enforcement.

The easement value is determined via appraisal of before-and-after fair market value of the offered acres. The cost-share provided to the entity for their purchase of an easement is based on a percentage of the value of the easement. 

  • Up to 50%—with U.S. right of enforcement
  • Up to 25%—without U.S right of enforcement

Georgia Projects:

Project ID# 1960 - The Red Hills to the Coast, Connecting Land
Lead Partner: Tall Timbers Research Station and Land Conservancy

Summary: Tall Timbers' vision for the St. Marks River and Aucilla River watersheds is a pair of adjoining watersheds that contain conserved, well-managed natural habitats that allow for an increase in populations for listed wildlife species, improved water quality for residents, and economic benefits to surrounding communities. A diverse set of partners intends to enroll at least 5,000 acres in conservation easements and provide technical and financial assistance covering 15,000 acres.

Type of easement enrollment offered: Entity-held easement; Entity holding easement: Tall Timbers Research Station and Land Conservancy

RCPP primary easement purposes:

  • Protection of relatively natural aquatic and upland habitats. Wetlands and water resource protection will be the primary focus of our entity-held easements. 
  • Protection of associated working land forests and agricultural areas to ensure long-term viability of local rural economies and support fiber and food production. 
  • Protection of open space and scenic resources for the public consistent with governmental policies. 
  • Protection and potential restoration of relatively natural habitats for a broad spectrum of fish and wildlife species. 
  • Oftentimes, these lands also have a working lands component and that will be accounted for within the easements.

The focus area in Georgia:  Brooks, Thomas, and Grady counties within the St. Marks River and Aucilla River watersheds only.

Partner Contact: 
Leslie Elmore
Partnership Programs Coordinator
Tall Timbers Research Station & Land Conservancy
(850) 868-0270

Project ID# 2061 - The Georgia Sentinel Landscape
Lead Partner: Georgia Conservancy, Inc.

Summary: The Georgia Conservancy and partners plan to protect up to 1,500 acres with conservation easements and expand prescribed fire efforts to improve management of the longleaf pine ecosystem. The project complements Department of Defense Sentinel Landscape activities and supports the goals of Georgia’s Gopher Tortoise Initiative.

Type of easement enrollment offered: Entity-held easement; Entity holding easement: Georgia-Alabama Land Trust

RCPP primary easement purposes: 

  • These easements will seek to protect the long-term viability of the nation’s food supply by preventing conversion of productive working lands to non-agricultural uses. 
  • This protection of productive working lands also reduces the conversion of these existing agricultural lands with permeable surfaces to other uses that would increase impermeable surfaces within multiple watersheds. 
  • These protected lands will provide an added public benefit of protection of the national defense mission and the traditional military community within the local area. These parcels will be located within the Compatible Use Buffer of Fort Stewart, Georgia which is one of nine installations located within the Georgia Sentinel Landscape. One of the four stated goals of the Georgia Sentinel Landscape is protection of agricultural and forested lands within the buffer areas of military installations within the Georgia Sentinel Landscape. 
  • Targeted easement holders will be agricultural producers located within a Department of Defense- Readiness and Environmental Protection Integration (REPI) boundary (also called a Compatible Use Buffer) within the Georgia Sentinel Landscape. These lands are formally designated by the Department of Defense and are the only locations where applicable Department of Defense matching funds are available. As such, applicants who are not physically located within a REPI boundary are not eligible for funding by the Department of Defense and will not be eligible for this project.

The focus area in Georgia: Bryan, Bulloch, Chatham, Effingham, Evans, Liberty, Long, Tattnall counties only.  

Partner Contact: 
Jason Alstad
Land Stewardship Coordinator
The Georgia Conservancy
(912) 447-5910

Project ID# 2574 - Gopher Tortoise Conservation Initiative
Lead Partner: US Endowment for Forestry and Communities

Summary: US Endowment for Forestry and Communities and partners will offer conservation easements and habitat restoration and maintenance activities on private forest land to protect Gopher Tortoise populations living in longleaf pine ecosystems in Georgia. The project is designed to help prevent a Threatened or Endangered listing of the gopher tortoise under the Endangered Species Act. Between RCPP and partner contribution investments, an estimated 8,000 acres of private and public lands will benefit from land management activities. This project builds on the existing Gopher Tortoise Conservation Initiative established in 2015.

Type of easement enrollment offered: U.S.-held easement; easements held by USDA NRCS

RCPP primary easement purposes:

  • Easement funds should be targeted to land that has a viable tortoise population or could hit that number through reintroduction of relocated gopher tortoises, and improvement of the habitat. 
  • Priority should go to lands already containing quality native groundcover or that can be restored as longleaf pine and native groundcover forest. 
  • Partner Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR) will contact owners of high-priority properties, and if the owners are willing to consider the sale of an easement to NRCS, DNR will introduce the parties to each other. 

The focus area in Georgia: Appling, Atkinson, Bacon, Baker, Ben Hill, Berrien, Brantley, Brooks, Bryan, Bulloch, Burke, Calhoun, Camden, Candler, Charlton, Chatham, Chattahoochee, Clay, Coffee, Colquitt, Columbia, Cook, Crisp, Decatur, Dodge, Dooly, Dougherty, Early, Echols, Effingham, Emanuel, Evans, Glynn, Grady, Irwin, Jeff Davis, Jenkins, Johnson, Lanier, Laurens, Lee, Liberty, Long, Lowndes, Macon, Marion, McDuffie, McIntosh, Miller, Mitchell, Montgomery, Muscogee, Pierce, Quitman, Randolph, Richmond, Schley, Screven, Seminole, Stewart, Sumter, Talbot, Tattnall, Taylor, Telfair, Terrell, Thomas, Tift, Toombs, Treutlen, Turner, Ware, Wayne, Webster, Wheeler, Wilcox and Worth counties.

Partner Contact: 
Ernest Cook
US Endowment (Contractor)
Land/Water Associates

Project ID# 2419 - The Working Farms Fund
Lead Partner:
The Conservation Fund

Summary: The Conservation Fund, in collaboration with six local partners, proposes to establish the first-of-its-kind program in the country, known as the Working Farms Fund. The project will permanently protect farmland across the Atlanta metropolitan foodshed and create opportunities for ambitious, diverse farmers to access affordable farms through an innovative buy-protect-sell model. Partners such as Emory University and the University of Georgia Small Business Development Center will help report on social and economic outcomes of the project, and the partnership is committed to ensuring that at least 20% of its participating farmers come from historically underserved groups.

Type of easement enrollment offered: Entity-held easement; Entity holding easement: Athens Land Trust

RCPP primary easement purposes: 

  • The Conservation Fund will work with Athens Land Trust who will be the Eligible Entity supporting the Long-Term Protection for farmland in the program. The Conservation Fund will purchase the farmland on behalf of the farmer. During the lease period with the matched farmer, The Conservation Fund will continue to hold the property while the Eligible Entity works with the next generation producer who has a lease with option to purchase the farm. 
  • The Conservation Fund’s Working Farms Fund Program is anchored in the rural belt outside of metropolitan Atlanta and is designed to save farmland from development near metropolitan areas to ensure the viability of farms near markets to ensure the success of the local food system. Entity Held Easements in the Working Farms Fund project will be under imminent threat due to their adjacency to the expanding and increasing population center of Atlanta.
  • The Entity Held Easement will support the ongoing investment in land management practices by ensuring the long-term success of next generation farm businesses that will investment in healthy soils and sustainable conservation practices on the land. 

The focus area in Georgia: Harris, Jasper, Lamar, Meriwether, Newton, Rockdale counties only.

Partner Contact: 
Krisztian Varsa
Working Farms Fund Associate
The Conservation Fund

For More Information
More information on USDA conservation programs is available online at or In Georgia, please contact Assistant State Conservationist – Water Resources and Easements, Sharon Swagger at, or RCPP Management & Program Analyst, Robyn Amie at

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