USDA: $350 Million Available to Protect and Restore Grasslands, Wetlands

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Thanks to OSFR board member and treasurer Sharon Yeago for forwarding this announcement:

USDA Announces $350 Million Available to Help Protect and Restore Grasslands, Wetlands, Working Lands

Application Deadline is January 15

Sec. Tom Vilsack

 GAINESVILLE, Fla., Nov. 19, 2015 – Agricultural Secretary Tom Vilsack announced today the availability of $350 million to help landowners protect and restore key farmlands, grasslands and wetlands across the nation. The funding is provided through the Agricultural Conservation Easements Program (ACEP), administered by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). The program was created by the 2014 Farm Bill to protect critical water resources and wildlife habitat, and encourage private owners to maintain land for farming and ranching. Through the voluntary sale of an easement, landowners limit future development to protect these key resources.

“NRCS is committed to preserving working agricultural lands to help protect the long-term viability of farming as well as restoring and protecting vital wetlands that provide important wildlife habitat and improve water quality,” said Russell Morgan, state conservationist for NRCS Florida.

ACEP’s agricultural land easements also support environmental quality, wildlife habitat, historic preservation and protection of open spaces. Native American Tribes, state and local governments and non-governmental organizations that have farmland or grassland protection programs are eligible to partner with NRCS to purchase conservation easements.

Wetland reserve easements allow landowners to restore and protect habitat for wildlife on their lands, reduce damage from flooding, recharge groundwater and provide outdoor recreational and educational opportunities. Eligible landowners can choose to enroll in a permanent or 30-year easement. Tribal landowners have the option of enrolling in 30-year contracts as well.

In Florida, the deadline to apply for the program has been extended to Jan. 15, 2016. Applications are available at local NRCS offices and online. Agreements will be evaluated starting in late August.

For more information about agricultural easements contact Nina Bhattacharyya, 352-338-9554. Contact Crenel Francis, 352-338-9508 about wetland reserve easements.

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