MT Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP): Wetland Reserve Easements

USDA: Natural Resources Conservation Service of Montana


Grant amount: Unspecified amount

Anticipated deadline: Mar 1, 2019

Applicant type: Nonprofit Indigenous Group

Funding uses: Applied Project / Program

Location of project: Montana

Location of residency: Montana

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Overview:

Wetland Reserve Easements

NRCS provides technical and financial assistance directly to private landowners and Indian tribes to restore, protect, and enhance wetlands through the purchase of a wetland reserve easement. For acreage owned by an Indian tribe, there is an additional enrollment option of a 30-year contract.

Under the Agriculture Conservation Easement Program (ACEP), Indian Tribes and tribal members can voluntarily restore, enhance, and protect wetlands on their property by enrolling their land into a Wetland Reserve Contract. 

Under the Agriculture Conservation Easement Program (ACEP), landowners can voluntarily restore, enhance, and protect wetlands on their property by enrolling their land into a Wetland Reserve Easement (WRE).

The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is looking for sites where former wetlands have been drained, altered, or manipulated for agricultural production. The landowner must be interested in restoring the wetland and then protecting the site. Also of interest are lands that have had wetland restoration actions previously conducted.

Easement Options

Through the wetland reserve enrollment options of the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP), NRCS may enroll eligible land through:   

Permanent Easements 

Permanent easements are conservation easements in perpetuity. NRCS pays 100 percent of the easement value for the purchase of the easement. Additionally, NRCS pays between 75 to 100 percent of the restoration costs. 

30-year Easements 

30-year easements expire after 30 years. Under 30-year easements, NRCS pays 50 to 75 percent of the easement value for the purchase of the easement. Additionally, NRCS pays between 50 to 75 percent of the restoration costs.   

Term Easements 

Term easements are easements that are for the maximum duration allowed under applicable State laws. NRCS pays 50 to 75 percent of the easement value for the purchase of the term easement. Additionally, NRCS pays between 50 to 75 percent of the restoration costs. 

30-year Contracts 

30-year contracts are only available to enroll acreage owned by Indian tribes, and program payment rates are commensurate with 30-year easements. 

Term Easements 

Term easements are easements that are for the maximum duration allowed under applicable State laws. NRCS pays 50 to 75 percent of the easement value for the purchase of the term easement. Additionally, NRCS pays between 50 to 75 percent of the restoration costs. 

Wetland Reserve Enhancement Partnerships 

The 2014 Farm Bill replaced the Wetland Reserve Enhancement Program with the Wetland Reserve Enhancement Partnership as an enrollment option under ACEP-WRE. WREP continues to be a voluntary program through which NRCS signs agreements with eligible partners to leverage resources to carry out high priority wetland protection, restoration and enhancement and to improve wildlife habitat.

Partner benefits through WREP agreements include:

  • Wetland restoration and protection in critical areas.
  • Ability to cost-share restoration or enhancement beyond NRCS requirements through leveraging .
  • Able to participate in the management or monitoring of selected project locations .
  • Ability to use innovative restoration methods and practices .

For wetland reserve easements, NRCS pays all costs associated with recording the easement in the local land records office, including recording fees, charges for abstracts, survey and appraisal fees, and title insurance.

You can learn more about this opportunity by visiting the funder's website.

Eligibility:

  • General Landowner Eligibility Criteria:
    • Meet the adjusted gross income limitation.
    • Comply with the highly erodible land and wetland conservation provisions (sodbuster/swampbuster). 
    • Demonstrate ownership of the land for the past 2 years or more for easement applications. Certain exceptions, such as inheritance, may apply. 
    • Have existing water rights adequate for the planned wetlands or be willing to apply for or transfer additional water rights. 
    • Hold clear title to the land or secure a signed subordination agreement from the lien holder. 
  • Entities can enroll their property in WRE; however, these entities have to be privately owned.
    • Entities can include a group of landowners (e.g. family members), nonprofit organizations, foundations, or church organizations.
  • Land eligibility:
    • Land eligible for wetland reserve easements includes farmed or converted wetland that can be successfully and cost-effectively restored. 
    • Eligibility for the WRE will be determined by a team of NRCS employees during an initial site visit.
    • Examples of eligible land are included below:
      • Wetlands cleared and/or drained for farming, pasture, or timber production.
      • Meadows drained to facilitate haying or grazing.
      • Drained or farmed potholes.
      • Lands adjacent to restorable wetlands that contribute significantly to wetland functions and values. 
      • Previously restored wetlands.
      • Existing or restorable riparian habitat corridors that connect protected wetlands. 
      • Lands substantially altered by flooding where there is a likelihood of successful wetland restoration at a reasonable cost. 
      • Riparian areas that link existing protected wetlands.

Preferences:

  • NRCS will prioritize applications based the easement’s potential for protecting and enhancing habitat for migratory birds and other wildlife.

Ineligibility:

  • State and federal agencies  are not eligible to participate in WRE.