On Monday, June 22, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced the availability of $17.5 million for wetland restoration partnerships with state and local governments, Indian tribes, and non-profit organizations in fiscal year 2015. Proposals must be submitted to NRCS state offices by July 31, 2015.
Projects will be funded through the Wetlands Reserve Enhancement Program (WREP), which is a component of the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP).
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.
Two types of funding are available for producers and partners. First, 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.
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. Proposals may include both FA and TA funding.
Proposals must be submitted by partners to the appropriate State Conservationists and directors who will conduct an initial evaluation based on the following criteria:
- 35 percent of the ranking points will be assigned based on an evaluation of the partner contribution, including in-kind contributions. To evaluate the partner contribution, NRCS will ask:
- To what extent does the proposal significantly leverage non-federal financial and technical resources?
- Does the proposal clearly describe outreach efforts to promote participation of beginning farmers or ranchers, socially disadvantaged farmers or ranchers, and Indian tribes?
- Does the proposal provide assurances of landowner participation, and has the applicant completed preliminary assessments of landowner interest within the proposed project area?
- Does the proposal ensure the availability of the resources to be contributed to WREP projects, including all matching funds?
- 15 percent percent of the ranking points will be assigned based on an evaluation of the partner’s capacity to facilitate the project and assess the outcomes. To evaluate the partner contribution, NRCS will ask:
- Does the proposal demonstrate a history of working cooperatively with landowners either through successful completion of past projects or initiatives with landowners?
- Does the proposal provide evidence that the restoration and enhancement activities will be completed within 2 years of closing the easement?
- Does the proposal include a monitoring plan, and if so, what level of monitoring will be used?
- The remaining 50 percent of the ranking points will be assigned based on an evaluation of the likely outcomes of the project. NRCS will ask:
- Does the proposal specifically address helping participants meet local, state, and/or federal regulatory requirements?
- Does the proposal have a high potential to improve habitat for migratory birds and other wetland-dependent wildlife?
- Does the proposal identify direct benefits to wetland-dependent federal- or state-listed threatened and endangered species?
- Does the proposal utilize innovative restoration methods and practices in a targeted fashion to facilitate maximizing the potential habitat benefits of the easement sites?
- Does the proposal target landscapes that are likely to result in the enrollment of multi-functional wetland ecosystems and diverse wetland types?
You can download a partnership agreement template to see what an WREP agreement will look like.
In addition to general WREP funding, a portion of the $17.5 million will be available through the Mississippi River Basin Initiative. To download the MRBI proposal evaluation sheet, click here.
For more information on eligibility and enrollment, visit our Grassroots Guide to Federal Farm and Food Programs.