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News Release

Agricultural Conservation Easement Program Accepting Applications in Vermont

NRCS Announces 2021 Application Deadlines for Agricultural Land Easements and Wetland Reserve Easements

COLCHESTER, December 17, 2020–USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) State Conservationist Vicky Drew encourages interested partner entities and landowners to submit proposals/applications through NRCS’ Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP). ACEP helps landowners, land trusts, and other entities protect, restore, and enhance wetlands, grasslands, and working farms and ranches through conservation easements.

Under the Agricultural Land Easements (ALE) component, NRCS helps American Indian tribes, state and local governments and non-governmental organizations protect working agricultural lands and limit non-agricultural uses of the land. Vermont has historically had a strong agricultural conservation easement program and to date has conserved 80,677 acres of farmland through 461 agricultural conservation easements utilizing $58.2 million in federal dollars. Land eligible for agricultural easements includes cropland, rangeland, grassland, pastureland and nonindustrial private forest land. NRCS will prioritize applications that protect agricultural uses and related conservation values of the land and those that maximize the protection of contiguous acres devoted to agricultural use.

NRCS has announced the 2021 application period for the Agricultural Land Easement portion of ACEP-ALE. The ALE application deadlines are:

  • Entities with existing program agreements and who want to add parcels should submit ALE applications by April 15, 2021.

  • New applicants who wish to enter into cooperative agreements or new program agreements should submit applications by February 5, 2021.

Partner entities wishing to submit ALE applications under either category above should submit required materials to VT NRCS Assistant State Conservationist Obe Racicot. The required materials and forms can be found on the ACEP webpage here.

The Wetlands Reserve Easements (WRE) component of ACEP helps to restore, protect and enhance enrolled wetlands. Vermont NRCS accepts WRE applications at any time, however, the funding cutoff deadline for applications to be considered during the current fiscal year is February 5, 2021. Questions and application materials should be directed to VT NRCS Wetland Specialist Jim Eikenberry. The required materials and forms can be found on the ACEP webpage here.

WRE’s are designed to restore and protect wetlands and their associated habitats and allow landowners to work directly with NRCS to secure and restore easement areas with up to 100% of the associated costs paid for by NRCS. 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. WRE helps landowners to successfully enhance and protect habitat for wildlife on their lands, reduce impacts from flooding, recharge groundwater, and provide outdoor recreational and educational opportunities. NRCS provides technical and financial assistance directly to private and tribal landowners to restore, protect and enhance wetlands through the purchase of these easements. Eligible landowners can choose to enroll in a permanent or 30-year easement; tribal landowners also have the option of enrolling in 30-year contracts.