NRCS is streamlining its Agricultural Conservation Easement Program to improve the program for landowners and partners. Learn more about these changes.
Program at a Glance
The Wetland Reserve Enhancement Partnership is part of the Wetland Reserve Easement (WRE) component of the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP), a Farm Bill conservation program. Through WREP, state agencies, county and local governments, non-governmental organizations and American Indian tribes are encouraged to submit proposals for priority project areas to collaborate with NRCS through program and partnership agreements. Once a proposal is accepted for funding the partners work with tribal and private landowners who voluntarily enroll eligible land into easements to protect, restore and enhance wetlands on their properties.
The voluntary nature of NRCS easement programs enables effective integration of wetland restoration on working landscapes, providing benefits to farmers and ranchers who enroll in the program, as well as benefits to the communities where the wetlands exist. Easements enable landowners to adopt a variety of conservation practices with the help of funding from NRCS that improve the function and condition of wetlands.
Wetland Reserve Easements protect important wetlands within an agricultural landscape, 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.
Partner benefits through WREP agreements include:
- Wetland restoration and protection in areas where priorities align to enable greater impacts on the landscape;
- Ability to cost-share restoration or enhancement beyond NRCS requirements through leveraging;
- Ability to provide in-kind staff capacity for acquisition, due diligence and restoration activities.
How Does It Work?
Through WREP, under the Wetlands Reserve Easements component of ACEP, partners work with NRCS to help restore, protect and enhance enrolled wetlands directly with private landowners and Indian tribes through the purchase of an NRCS Wetland Reserve Easement. Eligible lands, which include farmed or converted wetland habitat that can be successfully and cost-effectively restored, may be enrolled under permanent easements, 30-year easements, or 30-year contracts (for acreage owned by Indian Tribes). For lands enrolled through wetland easements, NRCS will also develop and implement a Wetland Reserve Easement restoration plan that will restore, protect, and enhance the wetland’s functions and values.
Partner contributions must equal at least 10 percent of the total estimated costs for easement acquisition related costs and restoration implementation costs. Proposals that provide partner contributions greater than 10 percent will be given higher consideration in the selection process.
NRCS will prioritize applications for projects that:
- provide maximum partner resources as match;
- support the goals and objectives of an NRCS Landscape Conservation Initiatives (see Priority Landscape Initiatives below);
- protect habitat that benefits migratory birds and wetland-dependent wildlife;
- provide direct benefits to federal and state threatened and endangered species; and
- include targeted outreach to underserved groups in the agricultural community.
How to Apply
The funding opportunity for FY2023 had ended. A funding announcement for FY2024 proposals will be made in the Fall of 2023, which is the beginning of the 2024 fiscal year.
Partners interested in the Wetland Reserve Easement Program are encouraged to work with their NRCS state office in developing a proposal that meets the criteria for an Agricultural Conservation Easement.