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News Release

USDA Celebrates Quarter Century of Easements Protecting Farms & Wetlands

Contacts: 
Anita Brown (530) 792-5644
Dean Kwasny (530) 792-5648

DAVIS, Calif., Sept. 19, 2018 — This year USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is celebrating its silver anniversary of providing conservation easements nationwide.

But NRCS has offered easement options through the Farm Bill to California landowners for the past 26 years. The state got an early start when it was included in a pilot program for wetland easements before the program was offered nationally.

Since 1992, California landowners have enrolled nearly 200,000 acres in 442 conservation easements through NRCS programs, such as the Wetland Reserve Program (WRP) and the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP). These easement programs have allowed landowners to restore, maintain or enhance their land to benefit the environment and preserve valuable agricultural land.

“The original Farm Bill easement programs have changed over the years, but the programs continue to help protect our farms and natural resources today,” said Carlos Suarez, NRCS State Conservationist in California.  “Some programs are intended to protect working lands, such as the Grassland Reserve Program or the Agricultural Land Easements component of ACEP, while others focus on restoring wetlands.”

California loses an average of over 40,000 acres of farmland each year and has lost one million acres since 1990. Conservation easements preserve farmland, ranchland, timberland and open space. They also protect water quality and provide a critical bridge between private lands and public lands for wildlife.

Protecting wetlands is important because one-half of all North American bird species use wetlands for feeding and nesting. Wetland easements mitigate flooding risks and allow farmers to keep their most productive land in agriculture while getting compensated for letting wetter land provide multiple conservation benefits. Restoring flood-prone agricultural land to permanent vegetation improves water quality, recharges groundwater and mitigates damage caused by flooding.

“Most of our wetland easements are in areas that have marginal agricultural value, due to frequent flooding or poorly-draining soils,” said Suarez. “These same lands, when restored to wetland status, provide excellent habitat for migratory birds, plants and animals, plus recreational opportunities such as hiking, hunting, boating and bird watching.”

Nationwide, NRCS has enrolled more than 22,000 easements covering more than 4.4 million acres over the past 25 years. And has invested $4.3 billion in financial and technical assistance.

Learn more about conservation easements in California at https://tinyurl.com/y9wh8p6a.

-NRCS-