USDA has announced the availability of $350 million through the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program to help landowners protect and restore farmlands, grasslands and wetlands.
ACEP focuses on preserving critical water resources and wildlife habitat, and encouraging private owners to maintain land for farming and ranching. Through the voluntary sale of an easement, landowners limit future development.
"The benefits of restoring, enhancing and protecting these working agricultural lands and critical wetlands cannot be overstated," USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said. "USDA is committed to preserving working agricultural lands to help protect the long-term viability of farming across the country."
ACEP's agricultural land easements prevent conversion of productive working lands to non-agricultural uses and also support environmental quality, wildlife habitat, historic preservation and protection of open spaces.
Native American Tribes, state and local governments and non-governmental organizations that have farmland or grassland protection programs are eligible to partner with NRCS to purchase conservation easements.
Wetland reserve easements allow landowners to successfully restore, enhance and protect habitat for wildlife on their lands, reduce damage from flooding, recharge groundwater and provide outdoor recreational and educational opportunities.
Eligible landowners can choose to enroll in a permanent or 30-year easement. Tribal landowners also have the option of enrolling in 30-year contracts.
In FY 2014 and FY 2015, NRCS invested more than $600 million in ACEP funding to help landowners engage in voluntary conservation to provide long-term protection of an estimated 250,000 acres of farmland, grassland, and wetlands through more than 750 new easements.