COLUMBUS — The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) encourages conservation partners wanting to protect agricultural lands to consider enrolling their property into conservation easements. NRCS will provide financial assistance to eligible partners to help protect working agricultural lands and limit non-agricultural uses of the land.
NRCS will utilize the Agricultural Land Easements (ALE) component of the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) to protect these valuable lands. Agricultural easements protect the long-term viability of the nation’s food supply by preventing conversion of productive working lands to non-agricultural uses. Land protected by agricultural easements provides additional public benefits, including enhanced environmental quality, historic preservation, wildlife habitat, and protection of open space.
“This valuable program helps keep working lands working, especially in areas experiencing development pressure,” said Jon Bourdon, NRCS Acting State Conservationist in Ohio. “Easements are an important tool for people who want to preserve the land for future generations.”
Through ACEP-ALE, NRCS provides funds to conservation partners to purchase conservation easements on private working lands. Eligible lands include privately owned cropland, rangeland, grassland, pastureland, and forestlands.
Partners include State or local agencies, non-profits, and tribes. Landowners continue to own their property, but voluntarily enter into a legal agreement with a cooperating entity to purchase an easement. The cooperating entity applies for matching funds from NRCS for the purchase of an easement from the landowner, permanently protecting its agricultural use and conservation values. Landowners do not apply directly to NRCS for funding under this program.
Applications for ACEP are taken on a continuous basis, but the ranking and funding deadline for this year is April 17, 2020. Ohio conservation partners interested in agricultural easements should contact Abigail McClain at (614) 255-2503.