USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service, or NRCS, agreed to purchase 30 conservation easements for wetland restoration in Iowa during fiscal year 2013. Those easements cover 2,829 acres and are worth $14 million through the federal government's Wetlands Reserve Program or WRP.
Since the inception of WRP in 1992, NRCS has restored more than 175,000 wetland acres in Iowa, says Larry Beeler, NRCS assistant state conservationist in Iowa.
WRP is a voluntary program offering landowners the opportunity to protect, restore, and enhance wetlands on their property. NRCS provides technical and financial support to help landowners with their wetland restoration efforts.
The Northern Plains Migratory Bird Habitat Initiative, which aims to provide habitat for migrating birds, helped fund 12 of Iowa's new WRP easements. New easements through the Bird Habitat Initiative cover 860 acres in the Prairie Pothole Region, located in the north central part of the state.
Wetlands provide habitat for wildlife, and improve water quality by acting as natural filters
Wetlands provide habitat for wildlife, including threatened and endangered species. They also improve water quality by filtering sediments and chemicals, reduce flooding, recharge groundwater, protect biological diversity, and provide opportunities for educational, scientific, and recreational activities.
Beeler says cropland areas that are often wet or prone to flooding make prime candidates for wetland restoration. "We accept applications for all of our programs on a continuous basis," he explains. "There are several WRP enrollment options, including permanent easements where USDA pays 100% of the easement value and up to 100% of the restoration costs."
To find out more about WRP eligibility and enrollment options, visit your local USDA Service Center or go online.