May 21, 2010

USDA Announces Funding for Wetlands Conservation Assistance in 22 States and Puerto Rico

Funding adds about 75,000 acres to Wetlands Reserve Program

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced funding for the Natural Resources Conservation Service's (NRCS) Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP), which will add an expected 75,000 additional acres to the approximately 2.2 million acres currently enrolled in the program. The funding will go to wetland conservation projects in 22 states and Puerto Rico.

"Healthy wetlands play several critical roles in protecting our environment, including improving water quality, preventing flooding and soil erosion, and creating and maintaining the best possible wildlife habitat," Vilsack said. "Farmers, ranchers and other private landowners play a critical role in protecting our wetlands, and the funding announced today will provide even more opportunities to maximize wetland values and ensure that these important natural resources survive for generations to come."

The funding availability totals nearly $175 million.

Wetlands are areas saturated by water all or most of a year. Often called "nature's kidneys," wetlands naturally filter contaminants out of water. Wetlands also recharge groundwater, prevent flooding and soil erosion and slow the flow of water that runs across the surface of the land.

Funded through the Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008 (Farm Bill) WRP is a voluntary program that helps landowners address wetland and wildlife natural resource concerns on private lands. WRP participants limit their future use of the land, but retain private ownership.

WRP offers permanent easements that pay 100% of the value of an easement and up to 100% of easement restoration costs, and 30-year easements that pay up to 75% of the value of an easement and up to 75% of easement restoration costs. WRP also offers restoration cost-share agreements to restore wetland functions and values without placing an easement on enrolled acres; NRCS pays up to 75% of restoration costs.