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News Release

USDA Offers Assistance to Protect Privately-Owned Wetlands, Agricultural Lands and Grasslands

Madison, Wis., September 30, 2021– The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) encourages people wanting to protect critical wetlands, agricultural lands and grasslands to consider enrolling their property into conservation easements. The Farm Bill provides USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) with 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, conserving productive agricultural lands and conserving grasslands. Landowners are compensated for enrolling their land in easements.

Applications for the ACEP are taken on a continuous basis, and they are ranked and considered for funding one time a year. The deadline for the Agricultural Land Easements (ALE) for fiscal year 2022 is December 1, 2021, and the deadline for Wetland Reserve Easements (WRE) for fiscal year 2022 is October 31, 2021.

“This year we are having an earlier deadline than we have had in previous years to allow staff ample time to collect and review required due-diligence information. In past years, on-site reviews of applications may have occurred during our snow-covered time of year, making it difficult to assess potential projects,” said Greg Kidd, Assistant State Conservationist for Easements. “Since we have such a high demand for our easement programs with very limited funding, we want to make sure we are selecting the best projects we can.”

Wetland Reserve Easements

Through ACEP-WRE, the NRCS helps landowners and tribes restore and protect wetland ecosystems. Wetlands are some of nature’s most productive ecosystems providing many ecological, societal and economic benefits.

WREs are either permanent or for 30 years in length. 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, the NRCS and the landowner work together to develop a plan for the restoration and maintenance of the wetland.

Agricultural Land Easements

Through ACEP-ALE, the 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-profit organizations 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 the NRCS for the purchase of an easement from the landowner, permanently protecting its agricultural use and conservation values. Landowners do not apply directly to the NRCS for funding under this program.

All ALE easements are permanent. Eligible lands include privately owned cropland, rangeland, grassland, pastureland, and forestlands.

More Information

Landowners and tribes interested in wetland reserve easements and partners interested in agricultural easements should contact their local USDA service center to get started.

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