Landowners are to be given funding to help protect and restore wetlands and farmlands across the United States.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said this week that $328 million in conservation funding would be made available to help support the protection of key farmlands, grasslands and wetlands. This investment is expected to benefit wildlife and the environment and also promote outdoor recreation and related sectors of the economy.
Approximately 380 projects nationwide have been selected to protect and restore 32,000 acres of prime farmland, 45,000 acres of grasslands and 52,000 acres of wetlands. Among the areas that will benefit from this initiative are the California Bay Delta Region, Mississippi and the Red River Basins.
The funding is being provided through the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP), which allows private or tribal landowners and eligible conservation partners working with landowners to request assistance from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to protect and enhance agricultural land through an agricultural or wetland easement.
The ACEP was established under the 2014 Farm Bill to protect critical wetlands and encourage producers to keep lands in farming and ranching, USDA explained. The program consolidates three former Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) easement programs — Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program, Grasslands Reserve Program and Wetlands Reserve Program — into two components. One is designed to protect farmlands and grasslands, and the other helps with agricultural wetlands restoration and protection.