NRCS accepting applications for Wetland Reserve Easements

(Photo provided by Illinois Natural Resources Conservation Service)

The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is accepting applications for the 2021 Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP-WRE). NRCS provides long-term protection of Illinois’ farmland, wetlands and grasslands through ACEP.

The first application cutoff date has been established, according to Ivan Dozier, state conservationist with NRCS.

“Right now, we’re accepting applications for Wetland Reserve Easements (WRE). Applications that are received and meet program eligibility by Feb. 5 will be considered for the 2021 program,” Dozier explained.

Illinois was allocated $4.5 million for ACEP-WRE in fiscal year 2021. NRCS may establish a second application funding cutoff opportunity later this year if all funds are not used in the first application cutoff or more funds become available.

Dozier reminded farmers and landowners they may apply for ACEP and all conservation programs at any time because signup is continuous and applications may be submitted any time.

NRCS offers two types of easements through ACEP. These are Agricultural Land Easements (ALE) and Wetland Reserve Easements (WRE). NRCS will establish an application cutoff for ALE at a later date.

NRCS is still finalizing the ranking criteria for fiscal year 2021. The Geographic Area Rate Caps (GARCs) are in draft form but are available for applicants to view. GARCs establish the rate per acre that NRCS pays to landowners for the ACEP-WRE easement.

The WRE purpose is to help landowners enhance and protect habitat for wetland wildlife on their land, reduce flooding impacts, recharge groundwater, provide outdoor recreation and increase habitat for migratory waterfowl.

NRCS provides private landowners technical and financial assistance to restore, protect and enhance wetlands through the purchase of these easements. Eligible landowners may choose to enroll a permanent easement or a 30-year easement.

To apply for a wetlands easement through ACEP-WRE, visit NRCS at your local USDA Service Center. Find more Illinois NRCS information online.