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NRCS Celebrates 5 Million Acres Enrolled in Conservation Easements

Photo for New Relase NRCS Celebrates 5 Million Acres Enrolled in Conservation Easements

 

 

 

Contact:
alicia.rodriguez@usda.gov

April 14, 2021

NRCS Celebrates 5 Million Acres Enrolled in Conservation Easements

NRCS NM enrolled 62,630 acres

Albuquerque, NM – NRCS and private landowners have partnered to protect more than 5 million acres of wetlands, grasslands and prime farmlands — an area the size of New Jersey. In New Mexico, NRCS enrolled 62,630 acres, helping achieve this important conservation milestone.

“The nation’s farmers, ranchers and private landowners are critical to conserving our nation’s natural resources for future generations,” said Xavier Montoya, NRCS State Conservationist in New Mexico. “We want to celebrate their efforts in helping us protect sensitive lands, support wildlife, and confront challenges like climate change.” NRCS has offered conservation easements through the Farm Bill for 28 years, through programs like Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP), which helps landowners, land trusts and other entities protect, restore, and enhance wetlands, grasslands, and working farms and ranches through conservation easements. These programs benefit participants and the American public by creating cleaner air, water and open spaces.

Wetland Easements

Wetland easements — totaling over 2.8 million acres nationwide and 1,100 acres in New Mexico — improve water quality by filtering sediments and chemicals, reducing flooding, recharging groundwater, protecting biological diversity and providing opportunities for educational, scientific and limited recreational activities. WRE easements in New Mexico protect riparian areas and ciénegas that provide vital habitat for migratory birds and sensitive plant species such as the Pecos sunflower and Wright’s marsh thistle.

Agricultural Land Easements

New Mexico is experiencing an acceleration in the loss of farmland around urban areas and loss of grasslands to solar and wind developments. Agricultural land easements protect the long-term viability of the nation’s food supply by preventing conversion of productive working lands to non-agricultural uses. These easements have been crucial to protecting rangelands and farmsteads from urban encroachment, ensuring the most productive lands remain working lands. Easements also can be used to protect floodplains, grasslands and forests, providing public benefits, including carbon sequestration, water quality, historic preservation, wildlife habitat and  protection of open space. New Mexico is one of a few states in the nation that provide a tax credit for a conservation easement. The tax credit together with ALE funding can provide assistance for cash-strapped landowners who want to protect the agricultural heritage of their land.

Agricultural land easements, including grassland easements, total more than 1.9 million acres nationwide and 61,530 acres in New Mexico.

Carbon Sequestration and Easements

Working with private landowners to preserve and restore wetlands, grasslands, forests and farmlands is integral to USDA’s efforts to build resiliency and reduce the impacts of climate change across the nation. Easements protect sensitive lands from development in perpetuity, and landowners can partner with NRCS to implement voluntary climate-smart management practices that maximize the amount of carbon sequestered from the atmosphere and stored in soils or plant biomass across these landscapes.

Under the Biden-Harris Administration, USDA is engaged in a whole-of-government effort to combat the climate crisis and conserve and protect our nation’s lands, biodiversity and natural resources including our soil, air and water. Through conservation practices and partnerships, USDA aims to enhance economic growth and create new income streams for farmers, ranchers, producers and private foresters. Successfully meeting these challenges will require USDA to pursue a coordinated approach alongside stakeholders, including State, local and Tribal governments.

Enroll in Easements

Farmers, ranchers and private foresters looking to enroll farmland, grasslands or wetlands in a conservation easement may find more information at the New Mexico ALE webpage. To enroll land through wetland reserve easements, landowners should contact their local USDA Service Center.

USDA offers a variety of conservation programs that provide help to plan and implement conservation practices on farms, ranches or forests. Learn more about putting conservation to work through our Conservation at Work video series.

While USDA offices are closed to visitors because of the pandemic, Service Center staff continue to work with agricultural producers via phone, email, and other digital tools. To conduct business, please contact your local USDA Service Center. Additionally, more information related to USDA’s response and relief for producers can be found at farmers.gov/coronavirus.

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