Easements can restore wetlands or preserve working farm ground

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Wetlands in the Chippewa North mitigation site in Medina County, Ohio. (Photo: North Coast Regional Council of Park Districts/Envirotech Consultants, Inc.)

COLUMBUS — The USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service is currently accepting applications for several programs that protect wetlands, agricultural lands and grasslands.

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.

Applications for ACEP are taken on a continuous basis, but the ranking and funding deadline for this year is April 19.

Wetland reserve easements

Through ACEP wetland reserve easements, NRCS helps landowners restore and protect wetland ecosystems.

Landowners can choose either a permanent or 30-year wetland conservation easement.

Eligible lands include farmed or converted wetlands that can successfully be restored, croplands or grasslands subject to flooding, previously restored wetlands and riparian areas that link protected wetland areas.

As part of the easement, NRCS and the landowner work together to develop a plan for the restoration and maintenance of the wetland.

Agricultural land easements

Through ACEP agricultural land easements, NRCS provides funds to conservation partners to purchase conservation easements on private working lands.

Partners include state or local agencies, nonprofits, and tribes.

Landowners continue to own their property but voluntarily enter into a legal agreement with a cooperating entity to purchase an easement. The cooperating entity applies for matching funds from NRCS for the purchase of an easement from the landowner, permanently protecting its agricultural use and conservation values.

Landowners do not apply directly to NRCS for funding under this program, and easements are permanent.

Eligible lands include privately owned cropland, grassland, pastures, and woodlands.

Contact your local USDA Service Center for information on any of these programs.

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