USDA Announces $350 Million Available to Help Protect & Restore Grasslands, Wetlands, & Working Lands
Agricultural Secretary Tom Vilsack announced last week the availability of $350 million to help landowners protect and restore key farmlands, grasslands and wetlands across the nation.
“Restoring, enhancing and protecting working agricultural lands and critical wetlands is extremely beneficial to landowners, as well as the people of Washington State,” said NRCS State Conservationist Roylene Rides at the Door. “The benefits include keeping important agricultural lands as working lands, as well as protecting and enhancing wildlife habitat and water quality,” said Rides at the Door.
ACEP's agricultural land easements not only protect the long-term viability of the nation's food supply by preventing conversion of productive working lands to non-agricultural uses, they also support environmental quality, wildlife habitat, historic preservation and protection of open spaces. Native American tribes, state and local governments and non-governmental organizations that have farmland or grassland protection programs are eligible to partner with NRCS to purchase conservation easements.
Wetland reserve easements allow landowners to successfully restore, enhance and protect habitat for wildlife on their lands, reduce damage from flooding, recharge groundwater and provide outdoor recreational and educational opportunities. 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.
In the south Puget Sound area, ACEP funds are being used to protect open agricultural spaces used by the threatened and endangered species like the Mazama pocket gopher and the streaked horned lark. In the northern Puget Sound region, ACEP Agricultural Land Easement funds are being used to protect agricultural lands that border streams and rivers containing threatened and endangered runs of salmon and steelhead. These ALE easements will have resource management system plans that will have required practices to address habitat needs for these fish species.
In Fiscal Year 2014 and FY 2015, NRCS invested more than $600 million in ACEP funding to help landowners engage in voluntary conservation to provide long-term protection of an estimated 250,000 acres of farmland, grassland, and wetlands through more than 750 new easements.
Funding is provided through the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP). The program was created by the 2014 Farm Bill to protect critical water resources and wildlife habitat, and encourage private landowners to maintain land for farming and ranching. Through the voluntary sale of an easement, landowners limit future development to protect these key resources.
To learn about ACEP and other technical and financial assistance available through NRCS conservation programs, visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/GetStarted or your local USDA Service Center.
November 23, 2015 - USDA news release
Photo courtesy of USDA NRCS - Through the use of conifer trees, NRCS and local landowners were able to stablize the bank of a stream on the Abrahmson farm.