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USDA-NRCS in Georgia Announces Wetland Reserve Enhancement Program Sign-up

Interested partners should apply through the NRCS State Office by August 16, 2024.
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Green metal sing indicating an easement boundary with a wetland in the background.

USDA has announced an investment of up to $50 million Nationwide in fiscal year 2024 through the Wetland Reserve Easement Program (WREP). This opportunity includes Georgia. Interested partners should apply through the State Office before August 16, 2024.

Release No.: 07.24


ATHENS, GEORGIA, June 3, 2024 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced recently that they are investing up to $50 million in fiscal year 2024 through the Wetland Reserve Enhancement Program (WREP). As a result, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) State Conservationist Terrance O. Rudolph is encouraging interested partners to connect with the Georgia State Office to ensure their projects are discussed and fully prepared to meet the nationwide batching date of August 16, 2024.

“The Wetland Reserve Enhancement Program leverages focus and resources from the USDA, partners and producers, to enhance the functionality of sensitive wetlands,” said Rudolph. “These additional resources, including the Inflation Reduction Act, allows us to create more climate resilient communities.”

How WREP Works  
WREP is part of the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP). Through WREP, states, local units of government, non-governmental organizations, and Tribal Nations collaborate with NRCS through cooperative and partnership agreements. These partners work with Tribal and private landowners who voluntarily enroll eligible land into easements to protect, restore and enhance wetlands on their properties. This includes marginal croplands, which are less productive because of repeated flooding or standing water.

NRCS is committed to the success of all our nation’s producers, businesses, and partners. Some of our nation’s producers belong to communities that have been marginalized or that are marginalized, which reduced the ability to farm and ranch successfully. These producers play a vital role in securing a healthy agricultural economy for our country and protecting, enhancing, and sustaining our valuable natural resources. NRCS encourages proposal submissions from entities that represent, are partnered with, or are composed entirely of producers belonging to these communities.

Wetland easements protect habitats for wildlife and are also excellent “carbon sinks” that offer much needed buffers from flood waters while providing resiliency to productive agricultural lands.    

Restoring wetland ecosystems helps filter sediments and chemicals to improve water quality downstream, enhance wildlife and aquatic habitat, reduce impacts from flooding, recharge groundwater and offers recreational benefits.  

Eligible partners include Tribes, state and local governments, and nongovernmental organizations. WREP partners are required to contribute a financial or technical assistance fund match. Proposals must be limited to $10 million in federal funding and should include a breakdown of project activities.  

Through the 2018 Farm Bill, NRCS has invested approximately $104 million in WREP projects.  

How to Apply
Partners should apply through their NRCS state office. In Georgia, they can do so by contacting Assistant State Conservationist for Easements and Water Resources at 706-546-2258 or sharon.swagger@usda.gov. This NRCS bulletin has additional information on how to apply.  

Partners looking to learn more about opportunities for WREP funding for fiscal year 2024 are encouraged to attend the WREP workshop on June 20, 2024, at 2 p.m. EST. Partners interested in attending should contact Ken Kriese, national ACEP-Wetland Reserve Easements program manager, at kenneth.kriese@usda.gov to be added to the Teams invitation.

More Information
This new funding provides $25 million from the 2018 Farm Bill and an equal amount from President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act, the largest clean energy and climate investment in history. Funds will be delivered through the ACEP – Wetland Reserve Easements.  

To strengthen implementation of the Inflation Reduction Act, NRCS is streamlining ACEP, to ensure that the program is easier and more convenient to use. Specifically, NRCS is streamlining ACEP appraisals, land surveys and certifying eligible entities who help NRCS, and producers enroll land into agricultural land easements. Additionally, NRCS is working with partners to help NRCS to increase capacity and acquire more conservation easements.  

USDA touches the lives of all Americans each day in so many positive ways. Under the Biden-Harris administration, USDA is transforming America’s food system with a greater focus on more resilient local and regional food production, fairer markets for all producers, ensuring access to safe, healthy and nutritious food in all communities, building new markets and streams of income for farmers and producers using climate smart food and forestry practices, making historic investments in infrastructure and clean energy capabilities in rural America, and committing to equity across the Department by removing systemic barriers and building a workforce more representative of America. To learn more, visit www.usda.gov
 

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