Spring is a wonderful time to appreciate the wonders of wetlands. Wetlands protect plants and provide habitat for wildlife, including endangered or threatened species. They also filter water, reduce soil loss, sequester carbon from the atmosphere, reduce flooding and recharge groundwater. And they provide recreational opportunities such as hunting and fishing.
May is American Wetlands Month, a time to celebrate one of nature’s most productive ecosystems and the wonderful ways wetlands enrich the environment and our lives.
Farmers and private landowners in Ohio have worked with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to create, restore and enhance wetlands for decades. They have incorporated wetlands into their operations for the benefits to the environment and their land. To help realize these benefits they have worked with USDA for assistance through its programs and services.
NRCS offers financial and technical assistance to farmers and private landowners through its programs to create, restore, and enhance wetlands. The Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP)’s Wetland Reserve Easement component offers opportunities to put marginal cropland and other eligible land into permanent and 30-year easements. NRCS accepts ACEP-WRE applications year-round but applications are ranked and funded by announced enrollment periods. Each state sets individual application deadlines for enrollment periods.
Wetlands are one of nature’s most productive ecosystems providing many ecological, societal and economic benefits. In the 1700s, wetlands covered 5 million acres of Ohio, primarily in the northwestern part of the State, referred to as the “Great Black Swamp.” Competing land uses resulted in a 90 percent loss of wetlands by the late 1900s. Since 2005, NRCS has assisted landowners in restoring more than 25,000 acres of Ohio’s wetlands.
“Wetlands provide many benefits, including critical habitat for a wide array of wildlife species. They also store floodwaters, trap sediment and filter pollutants to help improve water quality,” said Barbara Baker, NRCS Assistant State Conservationist in Ohio.
NRCS is using creative methods to help farmers and private forest landowners meet Farm Bill goals through its Wetland Mitigation Bank Program. Wetland mitigation banking helps restore, create or enhance wetlands to compensate for unavoidable impacts on wetlands at other locations. Working with states, local governments, and American Indian tribes, NRCS helps them develop wetland mitigation banks. NRCS is currently accepting proposals for new projects through July 6, 2020.
As we celebrate the month, our producers, partners, educators and others deserve thanks for helping to protect Ohio’s wetlands.
If you are a farmer or private landowner interested in learning more about wetlands, please contact your local USDA Service Center. USDA Service Centers are currently open for business by phone appointment only and field work will continue with appropriate social distancing. While our program delivery staff will continue to come into the office, they will be working with our producers by phone, and using online tools whenever possible.
USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer, and lender.