The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has announced they will invest $11 million in five Wetland Reserve Enhancement Partnership (WREP) projects to bring together partners and landowners to voluntarily return critical wetland functions to agricultural landscapes. NRCS is funding two new projects and providing additional funding to three existing ones that prioritize high-impact projects and provide assistance to historically underserved farmers and ranchers. These partnerships are part of USDA’s broader efforts to mitigate climate change by restoring wetlands while also prioritizing assistance to underserved communities.
The two new projects are here in the Southeast, and they are:
- The Georgia-Alabama Land Trust, which seeks to enroll approximately 4,000 acres, of which 42% will be specifically targeted for historically underserved landowners. This project area is in the Long County Wildlife Corridor Protection Area, much of which adjoins the Altamaha River and contains high-priority habitat. The project area includes significant impaired wetlands and numerous high-priority species.
- The Athens Land Trust, which seeks to enroll 120 acres; 100% is targeted at historically underserved landowners. The project prioritizes outreach areas in East Georgia with the goal of restoring and protecting wetlands needing biodiversity protection, improved water quality, increased flood buffer capacity, decreased erosion and enhanced carbon sequestration.
WREP is part of the Wetland Reserve Easement (WRE) component of the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP). WREP enables local conservation partners to provide their leadership and expertise to assist NRCS with acquiring and restoring private wetlands that have been previously altered for agricultural production, through targeting project areas and providing services to accomplish shared objectives in those areas.
Partners work with individual landowners to enroll in WRE which enable them to remove marginal agricultural land from production to return it to its historic state.
More information can be found on the WREP webpage.