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News Release

USDA Awards $48 Million Public-Private Investment to Improve Critical Wetlands

Wetlands Reserve

For more information contact:
Katherine K. Burse, State Public Affairs Officer
PH: 615-277-2533

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NASHVILLE, SEPT. 17, 2019 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced an investment of $48 million in wetland conservation projects in eight states through its Wetland Reserve Enhancement Partnership (WREP), implemented through USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). WREP project partners are providing nearly $2.3 million in matching funds, bringing the total investment to more than $50 million.

In total, the projects will protect, restore and enhance more than 15,000 acres of wetlands in critical watersheds across the nation. These partners work directly with eligible landowners interested in enrolling their agricultural land into wetland conservation easements.

“These locally-led projects will address long-term wetland restoration and assist flood-affected landowners in the identified watersheds,” said State Conservationist Sheldon Hightower, Tennessee NRCS. “Tennessee will partner with Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi and Missouri to leverage resources to ensure wetland conservation through a high-impact floodplain project in the Lower Mississippi River.”

Tennessee, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Missouri will partner in the Lower Mississippi River Batture Project, a high-priority watershed project where land and water management in the active floodplain of the Lower Mississippi, commonly called the “batture,” can be difficult. The goal is to help landowners establish a more sustainable management approach by removing the land from agricultural production, which will also provide ecological, economic and societal benefits.
 

The project constitutes the fifth phase of a continuing effort that began in 2012. Efforts to date under the first four phases have resulted in closed easements or easements pending closure on over 23,000 acres of private land in the project area.

Illinois and Iowa will also receive funding to participate in separate high-priority watershed projects. NRCS evaluated proposals based upon partner contributions, the ability to address resource concerns within NRCS designated special initiative areas and expected benefits to agricultural producers impacted by record flooding over the past year.

Wetland reserve easements enable landowners to successfully reduce impacts from flooding, recharge groundwater, enhance and protect wildlife habitat and provide outdoor recreational and educational opportunities. The voluntary nature of the NRCS easement programs enables effective integration of wetland restoration on working landscapes.

With the help of NRCS wetland easements, private landowners, tribes and conservation partners have enrolled nearly 3 million acres through 15,600 agreements since 1995.

Visit NRCS’s Agricultural Conservation Easement Program webpage to learn more about the agency’s wetland conservation opportunities.

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