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Sign-up begins for wetlands program

Posted on Monday, May 6, 2013 at 7:43 pm

Tennessee’s farmers and landowners can now sign up for the USDA’s Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP).

The program is administered through the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). The WRP is a voluntary program offering landowners the opportunity to protect, restore, and enhance wetlands on their property. Tennessee landowners have until June 3, 2013 to sign-up for WRP funding.

“The program is designed to restore wetlands with the goal of maximizing wildlife benefits and recovering lost wetland functions and values,” stated Tennessee’s Acting State Conservationist John Rissler.  “The Wetlands Reserve Program offers Tennesseans an opportunity to receive financial incentives to restore, protect, and enhance wetlands in exchange for retiring marginal land from agriculture. WRP funding will be awarded to eligible applicants based on environmental and economic rankings within the state.”

Eligible lands include those that are privately owned or tribal lands. The program offers easements and restoration contracts depending on the goals and objectives of the landowner. Through the easement acquisition, the landowner voluntarily limits future use of the land, but retains private ownership.

There are two enrollment options:  permanent easements and 30-year easements.

Permanent Easement:  This is a conservation easement in perpetuity. Easement payments for this option equal the lowest of three amounts: the agricultural value of the land, an established payment cap, or an amount offered by the landowner. In addition to paying for the easement, USDA pays 100 percent of the costs of restoring the wetland.

30-Year Easement:  Easement payments through this option are 75 percent of what would be paid for a permanent easement. USDA also pays up to 75 percent of restoration costs.

For both permanent and 30-year easements, USDA pays all costs associated with recording the easement in the local land records office, including recording fees, charges for abstracts, survey and appraisal fees, and title insurance.

Some examples of eligible lands include:  Wetlands farmed under natural conditions, farmed wetlands, prior converted cropland, farmed wetland pasture, former or degraded wetlands, and more.  Not sure if you have wetlands?  NRCS can help.

“We’re making progress in wetlands restoration because of the combined efforts of private landowners, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency and, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other state and federal agencies,” Rissler says.

Information about WRP is available online or from NRCS at local USDA Service Centers.