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Arkansas USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) State Conservationist Mike Sullivan recently announced the availability of $20 million to help landowners protect and restore wetlands across the state and in two special project areas.

The funding is provided through the Wetland Reserve Easements (WRE) portion of the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP), created by the 2014 Farm Bill to protect critical water resources and wildlife habitat. Through the voluntary sale of an easement, landowners limit future development to protect these key resources. 

WRE applications may be submitted at any time to NRCS; however, applications for the current funding round must be submitted by Jan. 27, 2017. Landowners statewide should visit their local USDA field service center to apply. The statewide funding totals $13.4 million dollars.

Two special Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watershed Initiative (MRBI) projects share $6.4 million in funding available through WRE. They are:

  • Cache River Wetlands Reserve Enhancement Program (WREP):  The purpose of this project is to improve water quality and restore forested wetlands to reduce non-point source pollution affecting the Cache and White Rivers. The project area is in portions of Monroe, Prairie and Woodruff counties.
     
  • Batture Lands WREP: The purpose of this project is to achieve more sustainable land and water management in the active floodplain of the Lower Mississippi, thus providing significant ecological, economic and societal benefits. The project area includes the portions of Chicot, Crittenden, Desha, Lee, Mississippi and Phillips counties inside the Mississippi River levee.

“Wetland reserve easements provide habitat for fish and wildlife, improve water quality by filtering sediments and chemicals, reduce impacts from flooding, recharge groundwater, and provide opportunities for educational, scientific and outdoor recreational activities,” Sullivan said. 

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.

To learn about WRE and other technical and financial assistance available through NRCS conservation programs, visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/GetStarted, www.ar.nrcs.usda.gov, or your local USDA Service Center.