INDIANAPOLIS — The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service in Indiana is investing up to $1.25 million in a Wetland Reserve Enhancement Partnership project to bring together partners and landowners to voluntarily return critical wetland functions to agricultural landscapes.
This project provides assistance to all eligible landowners in Indiana, as well as neighboring Illinois, with an emphasis on historically underserved farmers.
This partnership is part of USDA’s broader efforts to mitigate climate change by restoring wetlands while also prioritizing assistance to underserved communities.
Applications are taken on a continuous basis, but they must be received on or before Nov. 17 for the current funding period.
Restoring wetland ecosystems helps filter sediments and chemicals to improve water quality downstream, enhances wildlife and aquatic habitat, reduces impacts from flooding, recharges groundwater and offers recreational benefits.
Wetlands may also serve as carbon sinks by sequestering and storing carbon from the atmosphere, an ecosystem function that supports climate change mitigation across private lands.
“Wetland protection and restoration is a key component of our strategy to address climate change, and partnerships are essential to this work,” said Indiana NRCS Acting State Conservationist Curtis Knueven.
“The voluntary nature of NRCS easement programs enables effective integration of wetland restoration on working landscapes, providing benefits to farmers who enroll in the program, as well as benefits to the communities where the wetlands exist.”
The Lower Wabash River and White River Oxbow project, led by The Nature Conservancy, seeks to enroll 1,000 acres into wetland easements in parts of Knox, Gibson and Posey counties in Indiana and Gallatin, White, Edwards and Wabash counties in Illinois.
This project aims to build on existing efforts of local partnerships between NRCS, The Nature Conservancy and the Conservation Law Center to enroll historically underserved landowners in areas like Lyles Station, one of Indiana’s early black rural settlements.
The project focus is to reduce nutrient export from the Wabash River and to improve important habitat around priority oxbow lakes for monarch butterflies, migratory birds and large river fish species.
WREP is part of the Wetland Reserve Easement component of the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program.
WREP enables local conservation partners to provide leadership and expertise to assist NRCS with acquiring and restoring private wetlands that have been previously altered for agricultural production.
WREP easements can be enrolled as 30-year or perpetual, based on the landowner’s desired management of the offered property. Compensation rates are based on county location.