The Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) helps landowners, land trusts, and other entities protect, restore, and enhance wetlands or protect working farms and ranches through conservation easements.
NRCS provides financial assistance to eligible partners for purchasing perpetual 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 American Indian tribes, state and local governments and non-governmental organizations that have farmland, rangeland or grassland protection programs.
Under the ALE 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 ALE.
Washington NRCS strongly advises applicant entities (e.g., Land Trusts) to route potential landowner(s) to Farm Service Agency (FSA) immediately by the second week in October to complete their FSA eligibility.
Land eligible for 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. To enroll land in ACEP-ALE, NRCS enters into Program Agreements and Parcel Contracts with eligible partners.
All landowners of land, listed on the deed, being offered for ALE, and entity members down to the individuals, must meet the Adjusted Gross Income, Highly Erodible Land, and Wetland Conservation Compliance requirements and establish required farm records with the FSA by the application deadline. A copy of the current deed showing ownership must also be provided to FSA. Landowners that are corporations, trusts or other entities should consult with FSA on the forms that are required for the entity and members of the entity.
Landowners | How to Apply
To enroll land through the Agricultural Land Easement (ALE) Program, landowners must find an eligible partner to submit proposals to NRCS to be considered for a conservation easement on eligible land. Entities interested in using conservation easements to address natural resource concerns can submit applications at any time, although signup is continuous, funding selections are made at specific times during the fiscal year. Click here to find a land trust near you!
Entities | How to Apply
NRCS Washington strongly advises applicant entities (e.g., Land Trusts) to route potential landowner(s) to FSA immediately or no later than the second week of October to complete their FSA eligibility.
To offer land for enrollment in an agricultural land easement (ALE) easement, eligible entities must submit the respective application documents listed below to the NRCS Washington State Office by the deadline specified at the top of the page. Application submission instructions are detailed in the application packet. Application packets are available for download from the Application Forms and Documents for Entities section below.
Working Lands for Wildlife (WLFW)
Under ACEP-ALE, provisions were included to provide an increased Federal share for enrollment of Grasslands of Special Environmental Significance (GSS) that protects 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. Conservation easements can support the Sage Grouse Initiative (SGI) by keeping working lands working as intact range. If you have property that lies within one of the Sage Grouse core areas it may, as a grassland of special environmental significance, qualify for the higher NRCS contribution of up to 75 percent.
Courageous Conservation: Seachris Family Farm
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How to Get Assistance
Do you farm or ranch and want to make improvements to the land that you own or lease?
Natural Resources Conservation Service offers technical and financial assistance to help farmers, ranchers and forest landowners.
To get started with NRCS, we recommend you stop by your local NRCS field office. We’ll discuss your vision for your land.
NRCS provides landowners with free technical assistance, or advice, for their land. Common technical assistance includes: resource assessment, practice design and resource monitoring. Your conservation planner will help you determine if financial assistance is right for you.
We’ll walk you through the application process. To get started on applying for financial assistance, we’ll work with you:
- To fill out an AD 1026, which ensures a conservation plan is in place before lands with highly erodible soils are farmed. It also ensures that identified wetland areas are protected.
- To meet other eligibility certifications.
Once complete, we’ll work with you on the application, or CPA 1200.
Applications for most programs are accepted on a continuous basis, but they’re considered for funding in different ranking periods. Be sure to ask your local NRCS district conservationist about the deadline for the ranking period to ensure you turn in your application in time.
As part of the application process, we’ll check to see if you are eligible. To do this, you’ll need to bring:
- An official tax ID (Social Security number or an employer ID)
- A property deed or lease agreement to show you have control of the property; and
- A farm tract number.
If you don’t have a farm tract number, you can get one from USDA’s Farm Service Agency. Typically, the local FSA office is located in the same building as the local NRCS office. You only need a farm tract number if you’re interested in financial assistance.
NRCS will take a look at the applications and rank them according to local resource concerns, the amount of conservation benefits the work will provide and the needs of applicants.
If you’re selected, you can choose whether to sign the contract for the work to be done.
Once you sign the contract, you’ll be provided standards and specifications for completing the practice or practices, and then you will have a specified amount of time to implement. Once the work is implemented and inspected, you’ll be paid the rate of compensation for the work if it meets NRCS standards and specifications.