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Agricultural Conservation Easement Program

wetland in Vermont













The Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (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 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.  Under the Wetlands Reserve Easements component, NRCS helps to restore, protect and enhance enrolled wetlands.

Agricultural Land Easement (ALE)

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

NEW for ALE! Eligible entities who wish to apply for a new ALE Program Agreement should submit applications before February 11, 2022. Applications for individual ALE parcels should be submitted by April 1, 2022.

ALE Entity Eligibility Criteria

Any state or local unit of government, or non-profit organization can apply for ALE funds by demonstrating

  • -A commitment to long-term conservation of agricultural lands
  • -A capability to acquire, manage, and enforce easements
  • -Sufficient staff dedicated to monitoring and easement stewardship

Parcel Eligibility 

Eligible land must be privately owned agricultural land and--

  • -Contain at least 50% prime, unique, statewide, or locally important farmland;
  • -Contains historical or archeological resources;
  • -the enrollment of which would protect grazing uses and related conservation values by restoring and conserving land; or 
  • -the protection of which will further a State or local policy consistent with the purposes of ACEP; and land that is:
    • cropland;
    • rangeland;
    • grassland or land that contains forbs, or shrub land for which grazing his the predominant use;
    • located in an area that has been historically dominated by grass land, forbs, or shrubs and could provide habitat for animal or plant populations of significant ecological value;
    • pastureland; or
    • nonindustrial private forest land that contributes to the economic viability of an offered parcel or serves as a buffer to protect such land from development

The eligibility of the land and the landowner for each parcel must be established at the time the parcel is submitted for potential funding.

2022 ALE Program Application Materials for Entities

Wetland Reserve Easements (WRE)

NEW for WRE! Applications should be submitted by by March 11, 2022

NRCS also 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. For acreage owned by an Indian tribe, there is an additional enrollment option of a 30-year contract.

Through the wetland reserve enrollment options, NRCS may enroll eligible land through:  

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 between 75 to 100 percent of the restoration costs.

30-year Easements – 30-year easements expire after 30 years. Under 30-year easements, NRCS pays 50 to 75 percent of the easement value for the purchase of the easement. Additionally, NRCS pays between 50 to 75 percent of the restoration costs.  

Term Easements - Term easements are easements that are for the maximum duration allowed under applicable State laws. NRCS pays 50 to 75 percent of the easement value for the purchase of the term easement. Additionally, NRCS pays between 50 to 75 percent of the restoration costs.

30-year Contracts – 30-year contracts are only available to enroll acreage owned by Indian tribes, and program payment rates are commensurate with 30-year easements.

For 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.

Wetland Reserve Enhancement Partnership (WREP) –WREP continues to be a voluntary program through which NRCS signs agreements with eligible partners to leverage resources to carry out high priority wetland protection, restoration and enhancement and to improve wildlife habitat.

Partner benefits through WREP agreements include:

  • Wetland restoration and protection in critical areas
  • Ability to cost-share restoration or enhancement beyond NRCS requirements through leveraging
  • Able to participate in the management or monitoring of selected project locations
  • Ability to use innovative restoration methods and practices

Who Is Eligible

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.

To enroll land through agricultural land easements, NRCS enters into agreements with eligible partners.

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 reserve restoration easement plan. This plan restores, protects, and enhances the wetland’s functions and values

WRE Documents

Looking for more information about wetlands?

For definitions, quick facts and informational links about why we all need wetlands, please visit our wetland information page. The Conservation Compliance page provides links to guide agricultural producers and technical service providers through the complicated rules of compliance.

For more information on successful WRE projects in Vermont, please view our success stories pages.

For more information contact:

ACEP-ALE Julia Grey, NRCS Program Analyst, 802-951-6796, ext. 257 
ACEP-WRE Jim Eikenberry, NRCS Wetlands Specialist, 802-449-7255