September 28, 2021

USDA program looks for conservation partners

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — The U.S. Department of Agriculture will invest up to $17 million for conservation partners to help protect and restore critical wetlands on agricultural lands through the Wetland Reserve Enhancement Partnership.

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service is prioritizing proposals that focus on assisting historically underserved producers conserving wetlands. Proposals from partners are due Aug. 15.

Restored wetlands help to improve water quality downstream, enhance wildlife habitat, reduce impacts from flooding and provide recreational benefits.

“Our goal is to support agricultural producers in their efforts to conserve natural resources on their land. Wetland Reserve Enhancement Partnerships help partners and producers work together to protect wetland ecosystems on working lands,” said Ivan Dozier, state conservationist in Illinois.

Through WREP projects, eligible conservation partners protect, restore and enhance high-priority wetlands on agriculture lands. WREP enables effective integration of wetland restoration on working agricultural landscapes, providing meaningful benefits to farmers and ranchers who enroll in the program and to the communities where the wetlands exist.

Eligible partners include state and local governments and non-government organizations. WREP partners are required to contribute a financial or technical assistance fund match.

WREP funding is for fiscal year 2022 which begins Oct. 1, 2021. Partners interested in applying should contact their NRCS state office for more information.

Funding will be provided through the WREP, part of the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program, a farm bill conservation program. Through WREP, states, local units of governments and non-governmental collaborate with NRCS through cooperative and partnership agreements.

These partners work with private landowners who voluntarily enroll eligible land into easements to protect, restore and enhance wetlands on their properties.

Wetland reserve easements enable landowners to successfully reduce impacts from flooding, recharge groundwater, enhance and protect wildlife habitat and provide outdoor recreational and educational opportunities. Partners benefit from WREP by targeting outreach and enrollment priorities supported by NRCS, including places impacted by natural disasters.