April 6, 2016
To some, marshes, swamps, and bogs may sound like troublesome obstacles to agricultural production. Conservation and sustainable farmers know, however, that these wetlands are more like “biological supermarkets”, as the Environmental Protection Agency calls them, than problems. Wetlands are rich with resources and provide numerous benefits to working lands and the natural habitats that surround them – they enhance and protect the wildlife on and around working lands, reduce the impacts of flooding, protect the watershed, and help mitigate the effects of climate change by capturing carbon in plants and soil. Through the Wetlands Reserve Enhancement Program (WREP), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) hopes to work with producers to protect and restore these critical lands.
On Tuesday, April 5, USDA announced the availability of $15 million for wetland restoration partnerships with state and local governments, Indian tribes, and non-profit organizations in fiscal year 2016. Facilitated through the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and a component of the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP), WREP connects public and private partners in an effort to develop mutually agreed upon goals that will help strengthen agricultural operations by protecting and restoring wetlands.
Through WREP, NRCS and partner entities run multi-year projects to protect, restore, and enhance wetlands and wildlife habitat. WREP partners are required to contribute financial and in-kind matches for assistance. These partners work directly with eligible landowners interested in enrolling their agricultural land into conservation wetland easements.
Proposals must be submitted to NRCS state offices by May 16, 2016.
Two types of funding are available through WREP for producers and partners:
Financial assistance (FA) is available for the restoration or management of existing wetland easements, as well as for the enrollment of new land under a permanent easement or a 30-year easement (or through a 30-year contract on acreage owned by Indian Tribes). For FA proposals, partners must provide in-kind and/or cash contributions of at least 25 percent of the easement, restoration, or management costs. Of the $15 million available in FY 2016, $13 million will be obligated for FA.
Second, technical assistance (TA) funds are available to partners to expedite closing, restoration or management design or planning, or monitoring of existing wetland easements. For TA proposals, partners are required to provide a match of at least 50 percent cash and/or in-kind services. Of the $15 million available in FY 2016, $2 million will be obligated for TA.
Partners must submit proposals to the appropriate State Conservationists and directors, who will then conduct an initial evaluation based on the following criteria:
You can download last year’s partnership agreement to see what a WREP agreement will look like.
For more information on eligibility and enrollment, visit our Grassroots Guide to Federal Farm and Food Programs.