The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) encourages people and groups wanting to protect critical wetlands, agricultural lands and grasslands to consider enrolling their property into conservation easements. This year, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) plans to invest $250 million in technical and financial assistance to help private landowners, tribes, land trusts and other groups protect these valuable lands.
The Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) focuses on restoring and protecting wetlands as well as conserving productive agricultural lands and grasslands. Landowners are compensated for enrolling their land in easements.
“Protecting these lands preserves America’s heritage, natural resources and open space,” NRCS Acting Chief Leonard Jordan said. “Easements are also important tools for people who are trying to improve the management of their land.”
The 2014 Farm Bill created ACEP, merging together several easement programs into one. Last year alone, the program has protected nearly 300,000 acres through easements.
Landowners and tribes interested in wetland reserve easements and partners interested in agricultural easements should contact their local USDA service center. Applications for ACEP are taken on a continuous basis, and they are ranked and considered for funding several times per year.