February 26, 2024

Sign-up begins for wetland reserve easements

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Tammy Willis, state conservationist, announced the first application cutoff period for fiscal year 2023 Agricultural Conservation Easement Program wetland reserve easements of Dec. 1.

The purpose of the WRE program is to help landowners to restore, enhance and protect habitat for wetland wildlife on cropland and adjacent acres.

The program helps to reduce impacts from flooding, recharge groundwater, provide outdoor recreation and increase habitat for migratory waterfowl resulting in climate beneficial practices.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service wants landowners and farmers to know that the first application cut-off date for fiscal year 2023 has been established, Willis said.

“We accept applications for WRE year-round,” she said. “Applications received that meet program eligibility by Dec. 1 will be the first to be considered for funding in our fiscal year 2024 program.”

For fiscal year 2024, Illinois NRCS has $3.5 million in funding for landowners interested in WRE.

According to Willis, land eligible for WRE includes farmed or converted wetlands previously altered for agricultural production that can be successfully and cost-effectively restored.

NRCS prioritizes applications based on the easement’s potential for improving water quality and protecting and enhancing habitat for migratory birds and other wildlife.

To enroll land through this program, NRCS enters into an agreement with eligible private landowners to secure an easement on their property.

NRCS then develops, with the landowner, a wetland restoration plan to restore, enhance and protect wetland functions and values on their easement acres. NRCS works with the landowner on every step of the acquisition and restoration process.

NRCS provides technical and financial assistance directly to private landowners to restore, protect and enhance wetlands through the purchase of these easements, and eligible landowners can choose to enroll in either a permanent or a 30-year easement.

To apply for a wetland easement through ACEP-WRE, visit NRCS at a local USDA Service Center.

Find more information about ACEP and other conservation programs on the new Illinois NRCS website at https://tinyurl.com/4u2aaj8k.