Florida agricultural landowners interested in protecting their land uses with conservation values are being reminded about a fiscal year 2023 application deadline through the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP).
The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Florida is accepting applications for the Wetland Reserve Easement (WRE) component. That sign-up deadline is February 28, 2023.
NRCS accepts these applications year-round, but any received after that date will be considered for the following fiscal year.
ACEP protects the agricultural viability and related conservation values of eligible land by limiting nonagricultural uses which negatively affect agricultural uses and conservation values. The program protects grazing uses and related conservation values by restoring or conserving eligible grazing land, and also protects, restores and enhances wetlands on eligible land.
Under the WRE component of ACEP, landowners may apply directly to NRCS for a conservation easement to restore wetlands impacted by agriculture. Wetland Reserve Easements provide habitat for fish and wildlife, including threatened and endangered species, improve water quality by filtering sediments and chemicals, reduce flooding, recharge groundwater, protect biological diversity, provide resilience to climate change, and provide opportunities for limited recreational activities.
Land eligible for agricultural easements includes cropland, grassland, and pastureland. Non-industrial, private forest land may be enrolled when associated with active agricultural land. 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.
For information on how to apply, contact your local NRCS office by February 28.