INDIANAPOLIS — State Conservationist Jerry Raynor announced Sept. 30 that Indiana’s USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is making funds available to help landowners protect and restore key farmlands, grasslands and wetlands across Indiana. The funding is provided through the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP), created to protect critical water resources and wildlife habitat, and encourage private owners to maintain land for farming.
“Conservation easements are an important tool to help landowners and partners achieve their goals to protect land for future generations,” Raynor said. “NRCS helps guide landowners and partners throughout the easement process by providing technical expertise, conservation planning and financial assistance.”
ACEP streamlines the conservation easement options into two primary components: a wetlands reserve component where NRCS works directly with landowners to restore and protect their agricultural wetlands, and a working lands component where NRCS provides assistance to partners with farmland protection programs to purchase agricultural land easements.
Wetland reserve easements (WRE) allow landowners to successfully restore, enhance and protect habitat for wildlife on their lands, reduce damage from flooding, recharge groundwater and provide outdoor recreational and educational opportunities. Eligible landowners can choose to enroll in a permanent or 30-year easement. Eligible entities must submit applications for WRE’s current funding pool on or before November 15.
ACEP’s Agricultural Land Easements (ALE) not only protect the long-term viability of the nation’s food supply by preventing conversion of productive working lands to non-agricultural uses, they also support environmental quality, wildlife habitat, historic preservation and protection of open spaces. State and local governments, non-governmental organizations and Native American Tribes that have farmland or grassland protection programs are eligible to partner with NRCS and individual landowners to protect farmland through easements. Eligible entities must submit applications for ALE’s current funding pool on or before January 18, 2022.
In Indiana, over 1,700 acres have been enrolled in ACEP in the last year alone. Once restored, these acres will join over 80,000 acres of additional easements in the state. Many of these easements lie in critical migratory areas for waterfowl and other birds such as the Wabash River, Goose Pond, Kankakee Marsh, and Muscatatuck River Corridor.
“I cannot overemphasize the benefits of restoring, enhancing and protecting these working agricultural lands and critical wetlands,” said Raynor. “NRCS is committed to restoring and protecting wetlands that provide important wildlife habitat and improve our water quality as well as preserving working agricultural lands to help protect the long-term viability of farming across Indiana.”
ACEP applications may be submitted at any time to NRCS; however, applications for the current funding round must be submitted on or before the closing date – November 15 for WRE and January 18 for ALE.
To learn about ACEP and other technical and financial assistance available through Indiana NRCS conservation programs, visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/GetStarted or contact your District Conservationist http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/in/contact/local/.
For more information about easements in Indiana, visit: www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/in/programs/easements/
— USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service
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