Indiana NRCS Invests Dollars in Partnership to Restore Wetlands, Support Historically Underserved Producers
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Indiana is investing up to $3.5 million in a Wetland Reserve Enhancement Partnership (WREP) project
INDIANAPOLIS – The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Indiana is investing up to $3.5 million in a Wetland Reserve Enhancement Partnership (WREP) project, led by The Nature Conservancy (TNC), to bring together partners and landowners to voluntarily return critical wetland functions to agricultural landscapes. This project provides assistance to all eligible landowners in Indiana and Illinois, with an emphasis on historically underserved farmers and is part of USDA’s broader efforts to mitigate climate change by restoring wetlands while also prioritizing assistance to underserved communities. Applications are taken on a continuous basis, but they must be received on or before November 15 for the current funding period.
Restoring wetland ecosystems help filter sediments and chemicals to improve water quality downstream, enhance wildlife and aquatic habitat, reduce impacts from flooding, recharge groundwater and offer recreational benefits. Wetlands may also serve as “carbon sinks” by sequestering and storing carbon from the atmosphere, an ecosystem function that supports climate change mitigation across private lands.
“Indiana NRCS and TNC are continuing to work together through the second year of this WREP project to combat the negative impacts of climate change by restoring critical wetlands to their natural state,” Indiana NRCS Acting State Conservationist Dan Hovland said. “The program emphasizes the allocation of funding to historically underserved producers and landowners, who have faced barriers to participating in USDA conservation programs. By working with TNC, we are committed to helping them help the land.”
The Lower Wabash River and White River Oxbow project, led by TNC, seeks to enroll 1,000 acres into wetland easements in parts of Knox, Gibson and Posey counties in Indiana and Gallatin, White, Edwards and Wabash counties in Illinois. This project aims to build on existing efforts of local partnerships between NRCS, TNC and the Conservation Law Center to enroll all eligible landowners in Indiana and Illinois, with an emphasis on historically underserved farmers in areas such as Lyle’s Station, which was settled in the early 1800’s and is one of the last remaining Black American settlements in the state. The project focus is to reduce nutrient export from the Wabash River and to improve important habitat around priority oxbow lakes for monarch butterflies, migratory birds and large river fish species.
WREP is part of the Wetland Reserve Easement (WRE) component of the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP). WREP enables local conservation partners to provide their leadership and expertise to assist NRCS with acquiring and restoring private wetlands that have been previously altered for agricultural production, through targeting project areas and providing services to accomplish shared objectives in those areas.
WREP applications may be submitted at any time to NRCS; however, applications for the current funding round must be submitted on or before the closing date – November 15.
For more information about WREP and other technical and financial assistance available through Indiana NRCS conservation programs contact your county’s District Conservationist at Farmers.gov/service-locator.