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Wetland Reserve Easement (WRE)



NRCS provides technical and financial assistance directly to private landowners and Indian tribes to restore, protect, and enhance wetlands through the purchase of a Wetland Reserve Easement (WRE). For acreage owned by an Indian tribe, there is an additional enrollment option of a 30-year contract.

For all Wetland Reserve Easements, NRCS pays all costs associated with recording the easement in the local land records office, including recording fees, charges for abstracts, survey and appraisal fees, and title insurance.

Recent Successes

Learn about how WRE can help California landowners enhance and restore their wetlands through this interactive storymap created through a communications partnership with the Intermountain West Joint Venture.

Submitting an Application

Any interested farmer or rancher may submit an application for participation in the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program – Wetland Reserve Easements (ACEP-WRE).  The State Conservationist has established a sign-up period to select the highest ranked applications for funding based on the NRCS ranking process, contract approval is dependent on program eligibility determinations.

Program Eligibility

Land eligible for Wetland Reserve Easements includes farmed or converted wetland that can be successfully and cost-effectively restored. NRCS will prioritize applications based the easement’s potential for protecting and enhancing habitat for migratory birds and other wildlife.

To enroll land through Wetland Reserve Easements, NRCS enters into purchase agreements with eligible private landowners or Indian tribes that include the right for NRCS to develop and implement a wetland restoration plan. This plan restores, protects, and enhances the wetland’s functions and values.

Ranking Process

The State Conservationist, in consultation with the State Technical Committee has developed ranking criteria to prioritize and subsequently fund applications addressing priority natural resource concerns in California.  NRCS uses the Conservation Assessment Ranking Tool (CART) to assess the site vulnerability, existing conditions, and identify potential resource concerns on a unit of land.   After CART assessment, NRCS uses CART Ranking to evaluate an application in all applicable ranking pools.  More information about the CART evaluation process can be viewed at the CART webpage

Visit the WRE ranking pool webpage to view ranking criteria applicable to evaluating and prioritizing ACEP-WRE applications for funding.

Easement Values

Easement values for WRE are based on the lowest value of an appraisal, a Geographic Area Rate Cap (GARC), or a landowner offer. To determine Geographic Area Rate Caps, California uses a Market Analysis to assess the value of specific land uses in defined geographic areas. The Market Analysis is conducted each year by an independent appraiser and sets an up-front value for the property rights being acquired by USDA. The proposed GARC(s) for specific California counties and land uses can viewed at the GARC webpage or  download a copy.

Enrollment Options

Permanent Easements – Permanent Easements are conservation easements in perpetuity. NRCS pays 100 percent of the easement value for the purchase of the easement. Additionally, NRCS pays 100 percent of the restoration costs.

30-year Easements – 30-year easements expire after 30 years. Under 30-year easements, NRCS pays 75 percent of the easement value for the purchase of the easement. Additionally, NRCS pays 75 percent of the restoration costs.

30-year Contracts – 30-year contracts are only available to enroll acreage owned by Indian tribes. Program payment rates are commensurate with 30-year easements. Additionally, NRCS pays 75 percent of the restoration costs.

Grazing Reserved Rights Option - California NRCS is offering a Grazing Reserved Rights Option in specific geographic areas of the state as part of WRE. Permanent and 30-year easement options are available. For a grazing easement, NRCS pays 75% of the Permanent or 30-year easement values identified above. This option allows livestock grazing on enrolled land as part of an NRCS approved wetlands conservation and grazing management plan.

Program Contact

Dean Kwasny, Easement Programs Specialist
Natural Resources Conservation Service
Davis State Office, California
Phone: 530-792-5648

Nate Key, WRE Team Leader, Northern California
Natural Resources Conservation Service
Yuba City Field Office, California
Phone: 530-216-5856

Karl Kraft, WRE Biologist, Southern California
Natural Resources Conservation Service
Stockton Field Office, California
Phone: 209-287-3637