DOWS, IOWA, June 15, 2018—USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service celebrated the more than 1,500 Iowa landowners who have enrolled about 186,000 wetland acres into conservation easements since 1993 at a special event today at the Dows Community Center.
NRCS has offered easement options to Iowa landowners through the Farm Bill for the past 25 years. Programs such as the Wetland Reserve Program and the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program have allowed landowners to restore, maintain or enhance their land to benefit the environment.
Iowa NRCS State Conservationist Kurt Simon thanked the easement program participants who recognized their land’s best use. “We’re celebrating farmers and landowners protecting water quality and embracing their land’s highest and best use as wetland habitat, and not expending time and money on drainage of low producing crop ground,” he said.
Although wetlands only cover about five percent of the continental United States, Simon says half of all North American bird species utilize wetlands for feeding or nesting. “More than one-third of all threatened or endangered species are dependent on wetland habitat,” he said.
Wetlands also provide flood control, water quality, and soil conservation benefits.
Iowa leads the nation in the number of conservation easements with 1,620. Simon said about 65 percent of the easements remain in private ownership. Many of the other easements have been purchased and are now managed by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and county conservation boards or groups such as the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation.
Nationally, private landowners have enrolled more than 22,000 easements that cover more than 4.4 million acres through NRCS easement programs.
BigWallLakeComplex – Many of the conservation easement celebration attendees toured the nearby Big Wall Lake Complex following the program. The 564-acre complex includes three adjacent easements enrolled from 2013 through 2017.
Simon_0914 – Iowa NRCS State Conservationist Kurt Simon speaks to a crowd of about 75 landowners, and county, state and federal conservation officials at a 25th Anniversary celebration of conservation easements at the Dows Community Center on June 15.