Wetlands Reserve Easements (WRE) help private and tribal landowners protect, restore and enhance wetlands which have been previously degraded due to agricultural uses.
The Wetland Reserve Enhancement Partnership (WREP) is a voluntary program through which NRCS enters into agreements with eligible partners to leverage resources to carry out high priority wetland protection, restoration, and enhancement and to improve wildlife habitat.
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.
Ready to get started?
Contact your local service center to start your application.
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.