Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released the final rule for its Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP). The program enables agricultural producers and private landowners to protect farmlands, grasslands, and wetlands with conservation easements. Jimmy Bramblett, with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), discusses the relationship between landowners and the federal government under ACEP.
ACEP’s agricultural land easements (ALE) component assists state and local governments, non-governmental organizations, and American Indian tribes that have farmland or grassland protection programs purchase conservation easements from eligible landowners. This helps protect the long-term viability of the nation’s food supply by preventing the conversion of productive working farmland and grassland to non-agricultural uses or non-grassland uses.
The wetland reserve easements (WRE) component helps landowners restore and protect wetlands in agricultural landscapes that provide benefits, including increased wildlife habitat, improved water quality, reduced impacts from flooding, groundwater recharge, and more outdoor recreation and educational opportunities. NRCS provides technical and financial assistance directly to private and tribal landowners to restore, protect and enhance wetlands through the purchase of these easements.
NRCS accepts ACEP applications year-round, but applications are ranked and funded during enrollment periods that are set locally. For more information, contact your local NRCS field office.