The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service in Maine has funding available to protect, restore, and enhance wetlands through the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program-Wetland Reserve Easements, announced NRCS State Conservationist Juan Hernandez.
Applications are accepted year round. However, applications received by close of business on May 2, 2014 will be considered for funding in 2014. Applications received after this date will be considered for funding in Fiscal Year 2015.
“The Wetland Reserve Easement portion of the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program, formerly known as the Wetland Reserve Program, is a great opportunity for many landowners, particularly farmers, who may have land that is poorly drained and difficult to cultivate, landowners who are looking to cut back on farming but don’t want to sell the land, or those landowners interested in establishing and protecting prime wildlife habitat”, said Hernandez.
ACEP-WRE provides financial incentives to help farmers restore farmland, including pastures, which were once wetlands to create fully-functioning wetlands again. The benefits from selling an easement on the wetland may help farmers shift their field configurations, allowing them to put more resources toward increasing productivity in other areas of the farm. To enroll in ACEP-WRE, lands that are classified as wetland, or were formerly wetland and are kept mowed or cultivated for agricultural purposes, and forest lands where the wetland hydrology has been altered significantly, are eligible.
The program offers four enrollment options: (1) Permanent Easements are conservation easement in perpetuity. NRCS pays 100 percent of the easement value and up to 100 percent of the restoration costs; (2) 30-Year Easements expire after 30 years. NRCS pays up to 75 percent of the easement value and restoration costs; (3) Term Easements are for the maximum duration allowed under applicable state laws. NRCS pays up to 75 percent of the easement value and restoration costs; (4) 30-Year Contracts are only available on tribal lands. USDA pays up to 75 percent of the restoration costs. The landowner maintains ownership of the land, access to the land, and responsibility for taxes. Public access IS NOT required on WRP land.
Interested landowners should visit their local NRCS office located at the USDA Service Center to determine eligibility. USDA Service Centers are listed online at http://offices.usda.gov, or in the telephone book under United States Government, Agriculture Department. Additional information on the ACEP-WRE is available at www.me.nrcs.usda.gov.
USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.