COLUMBUS — The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has $3.5 million available to help Ohio landowners restore wetlands and $4.2 million available for easements to protect agricultural land from conversion to non-agricultural uses.
The funding is part of a $350 million national effort by USDA to protect and restore key farmlands, grasslands, and wetlands through NRCS’ Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP).
Last year, landowners restored 550 acres of wetlands in Ohio through ACEP.
Permanent easements. Landowners received between $1,675 and $7,400 per acre in exchange for permanent easements to protect wetlands, depending on the location of the wetland. They can also choose a 30-year easement option at a reduced rate.
Wetlands are areas saturated by water all or most of the year. Often called “nature’s kidneys,” wetlands naturally filter contaminants out of water.
Wetlands also recharge groundwater; reduce flooding and soil erosion; support diverse populations of wildlife, plants, and fish; improve aesthetics; and offer recreational opportunities.
In the 1700s, wetlands covered five 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 assisted landowners in restoring more than 24,000 acres of wetlands in Ohio.
“Through my career as a conservationist and as an avid outdoorsman, I’ve seen the difference wetlands create first-hand,” said State Conservationist Terry Cosby. “Wildlife use the new habitat immediately; a bald eagle appeared at one recently restored wetland within a few months. The landowner enjoys the benefits, and the public does as well.”
Cosby said Ohio landowners must apply by Jan. 15 to be eligible for the current allotment of funding. Interested landowners should schedule an appointment with the NRCS office in their county’s USDA Service Center.
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.
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