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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.

 

LATEST: USDA seeks project proposals to protect and restore Critical Wetlands: Proposals through Wetland Reserve Enhancement Partnership (WREP) due by June 14, 2019

Benefits

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.

Agricultural Land Easements

NRCS provides financial assistance to eligible partners for purchasing Agricultural Land Easements that protect the agricultural use and conservation values of eligible land. In the case of working farms, the program helps farmers and ranchers keep their land in agriculture. The program also protects grazing uses and related conservation values by conserving grassland, including rangeland, pastureland and shrubland. Eligible partners include Indian tribes, state and local governments and non-governmental organizations that have farmland or grassland protection programs.

Under the Agricultural Land component, NRCS may contribute up to 50 percent of the fair market value of the agricultural land easement. Where NRCS determines that grasslands of special environmental significance will be protected, NRCS may contribute up to 75 percent of the fair market value of the agricultural land easement.

NEW: Phase 1 guidance has been released. NRCS is authorized to implement ACEP under the 2014 Farm Bill policy except where it conflicts with the 2018 Farm Bill. Phase 2 and 3 guidance will be based on interim and final rules respectively, and will more fully represent all updates made by the 2018 Farm Bill. NRCS-Maine has set an application batching deadline of April 26, 2019. Application forms and reference materials are located in the Forms link. If you have any questions please contact Easements Specialist Ryan DuBois at ryan.dubois@usda.gov or (207) 883-0159, ext. 2817. Please email or mail your applications to Ryan at his email address or mail to: NRCS, 306 U.S. Route 1, Suite A1, Scarborough, ME 04074 

Wetland Reserve Easements

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. 

NEW: Phase 1 guidance has been released. NRCS is authorized to implement ACEP under the 2014 Farm Bill policy except where it conflicts with the 2018 Farm Bill. Phase 2 and 3 guidance will be based on interim and final rules respectively, and will more fully represent all updates made by the 2018 Farm Bill. NRCS-Maine has set an application batching deadline of April 26, 2019. Application forms and reference materials are located in the Forms link. If you have any questions please contact Easements Specialist Ryan DuBois at ryan.dubois@usda.gov or (207) 883-0159, ext. 2817. Please email or mail your applications to Ryan at his email address or mail to: NRCS, 306 U.S. Route 1, Suite A1, Scarborough, ME 04074 

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.
  • 30-year Contracts – 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.

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.

Eligibility

Land eligible for agricultural easements includes cropland, rangeland, grassland, pastureland and nonindustrial private forest land. Non-industrial private forest land surface cover is limited to a maximum of 2/3rds (66.67%) of the the offered parcel. 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. 

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.

How to Apply

To enroll land through agricultural land easements, eligible partners may submit proposals to NRCS to acquire conservation easements on eligible land.

To enroll land through wetland reserve easements, landowners may contact Ryan Dubois at (207) 883-0159, Ext. 2187.

More Information

ACEP Fact Sheet (PDF, 1.2MB)

National ACEP Website

Program Contact:  Ryan DuBois, Resource Conservationist, (207) 883-0159, Ext. 2187 or email ryan.dubois@usda.gov.

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