Skip Navigation

News Release

Assistance Now Available to Protect Privately-Owned Wetlands, Agricultural Lands and Grasslands

Contact:
Barbara Baker
614-255-2502


Sign-up Deadline is January 19, 2018

COLUMBUS, OH, Dec. 18, 2017 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) encourages people and groups wanting to protect critical wetlands, agricultural lands and grasslands to consider enrolling their property into conservation easements. This year, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) plans to invest $250 million nationally in technical and financial assistance to help private landowners, tribes, land trusts, and other groups protect these valuable lands.

The Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) focuses on restoring and protecting wetlands as well as conserving productive agricultural lands and grasslands. Landowners are compensated for enrolling their land in easements.

“Protecting these lands preserves Ohio’s heritage, natural resources and open space, said Terry Cosby, NRCS State Conservationist in Ohio. Easements are an important tool for people who are trying to improve the management of their land.”

Applications for ACEP are taken on a continuous basis, and they are ranked and considered for funding several times per year. The next Ohio deadline is January 19, 2018.

The 2014 Farm Bill created ACEP, merging together several easement programs into one. In the last year, easements have protected 5,132 acres in Ohio and nearly 300,000 acres nationwide.

Wetland Reserve Easements

Through ACEP wetland reserve easements, NRCS helps landowners restore and protect wetland ecosystems. Wetlands are one of nature’s most productive ecosystems providing many ecological, societal and economic benefits.

In the 1700s, wetlands covered 5 million acres of Ohio, primarily in the northwestern part of the State, referred to as the “Great Black Swamp.” Competing land uses resulted in a 90 percent loss of wetlands by the late 1900s.  Since 2005, NRCS has assisted landowners in restoring more than 25,000 acres of wetlands in Ohio.

“Wetlands provide many benefits, including critical habitat for a wide array of wildlife species. They also store floodwaters, clean and recharge groundwater, sequester carbon, trap sediment, and filter pollutants for clean water,” said Cosby.  

“Seventy-five percent of the nation's wetlands are situated on private and tribal lands,” Cosby added.  Last year, Ohio landowners restored 2,985 acres of wetlands through ACEP.  Landowners can choose either a permanent or 30-year wetland conservation easement.

Eligible lands include farmed or converted wetlands that can successfully be restored, croplands or grasslands subject to flooding, and riparian areas that link protected wetland areas. As part of the easement, NRCS and the landowner work together to develop a plan for the restoration and maintenance of the wetland.

Agricultural Land Easements

Through ACEP agricultural land easements, NRCS provides funds to conservation partners to purchase conservation easements on private working lands. This program helps keep working lands working, especially in areas experiencing development pressure.

Partners include State or local agencies, non-profits and tribes. Landowners continue to own their property, but voluntarily enter into a legal agreement with a cooperating entity to purchase an easement. The cooperating entity applies for matching funds from NRCS for the purchase of an easement from the landowner, permanently protecting its agricultural use and conservation values. Landowners do not apply directly to NRCS for funding under this program.

Easements are permanent. Eligible lands include privately owned cropland, rangeland, grassland, pastureland, and forestlands.

More Information

Ohio landowners interested in wetland reserve easements and partners interested in agricultural easements should contact their local USDA Service Center.

###

Share this release:


Join News Release Mailing List