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Agricultural Conservation Easement Program

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The Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) provides financial and technical assistance to help conserve agricultural lands and wetlands and their related benefits. Under the Agricultural Land Easements component, NRCS helps 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.

What's New in ACEP?

NRCS state office is accepting applications for partnership wetland restoration projects from eligible conservation partners through July 31, 2015

Transition to ACEP Webinar on YouTube (opens in new window)

ACEP Interim Final Rule Public
Comment Period Extension

The public comment period is closed

View comments on the ACEP Interim Final Rule on the website

A summary of the changes is on the NRCS Farm Bill Rules page.

FY 2015 ACEP - ALE Minimum Deed Terms (PDF, 399KB)

ACEP Program Manual (HTML | generate 3.8MB PDF )


Other Documents

Civil Rights Impact Analysis(PDF, 11MB)
Regulatory Impact Analysis  (PDF,152KB)
Environmental Assessment
Finding of No Significant Impact

FY 2014 Allocations to States


Fiscal Year 2015 Signup for Wetland Reserve Enhancement Partnership projects

NRCS state office is accepting project applications from state, local units of governments, non-governmental organizations and American Indian tribes interested in leveraging resources to voluntarily protect, restore and enhance critical wetlands on private and tribal agricultural land nationwide.

NRCS is making $17.5 million in financial and technical assistance available to conservation partners for this purpose through its Wetland Reserve Enhancement Partnership or WREP. WREP is an enrollment option under the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program’s Wetland Reserve Easement component. Applications must be submitted to NRCS’s state offices by July 31, 2015 to be considered for fiscal year 2015 funding.



Agricultural Land Easements protect the long-term viability of the nation’s food supply by preventing conversion of productive working lands to non-agricultural uses.  Land protected by agricultural land easements provides additional public benefits, including environmental quality, historic preservation, wildlife habitat and protection of open space.

Wetland Reserve Easements provide habitat for fish and wildlife, including threatened and endangered species, improve water quality by filtering sediments and chemicals, reduce flooding, recharge groundwater, protect biological diversity and provide opportunities for educational, scientific and limited recreational activities.



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.

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 agricultural land easements, NRCS enters into cooperative agreements with eligible partners. Each easement is required to have an agricultural land easement plan that promotes the long-term viability of the land.

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.


Wetland Reserve Enhancement Partnership – The 2014 Farm Bill replaced the Wetland Reserve Enhancement Program with the Wetland Reserve Enhancement Partnership as an enrollment option under ACEP – WRE. 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

How to Apply in Illinois

Agricultural Land Easements - eligible partners may submit proposals to NRCS to acquire conservation easements on eligible land.

Wetland Reserve Easements - landowners may apply at any time at the local USDA Service Center.

To apply for ACEP in Illinois, visit your local USDA Service Center, NRCS office.


More Information

ACEP Fact Sheet (PDF, 1.2MB)
ACEP Fact Sheet (Spanish PDF, 1247kb)


ACEP Program Manual ( read online HTML | generate 3.8MB printer-friendly PDF )

FY 2015 ACEP - ALE Minimum Deed Terms (PDF, 399KB)

ACEP-ALE FY 2014 Cooperative Agreements and Deed Terms (PDF, 1.1MB)

ACEP-ALE FY 2014 Cooperative Agreements and Deed Terms for Grasslands of Special Environmental Significance (PDF, 1.2MB)


To learn how to get started with NRCS, visit

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