Indiana NRCS Announces $3.4 Million Available to Help Protect and Restore Sensitive Lands
State Conservationist Jane Hardisty announced today that Indiana’s USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is making available over $3.4 million to help landowners protect and restore key farmlands, grasslands and wetlands across Indiana. The funding is provided through the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP), created by the 2014 Farm Bill to protect critical water resources and wildlife habitat, and encourage private owners to maintain land for farming. Eligible entities must submit applications for the current funding pool on or before January 15, 2016.
“I cannot overemphasize the benefits of restoring, enhancing and protecting these working agricultural lands and critical wetlands,” said Hardisty. “NRCS is committed to preserving working agricultural lands to help protect the long-term viability of farming across Indiana as well as to restoring and protecting wetlands that provide important wildlife habitat and improve our water quality.”
ACEP’s Agricultural Land Easements (ALE) not only protect the long-term viability of the nation’s food supply by preventing conversion of productive working lands to non-agricultural uses, they also support environmental quality, wildlife habitat, historic preservation and protection of open spaces. State and local governments, non-governmental organizations and Native American Tribes that have farmland or grassland protection programs are eligible to partner with NRCS to protect farmland through easements.
Wetland reserve easements (WRE) allow landowners to successfully restore, enhance 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 also have the option of enrolling in 30-year contracts.
In Indiana, over 1,600 acres have been enrolled in the WRE (formerly the WRP or Wetland Reserve Program) in the last two years alone. Once restored, these acres will join over 70,000 acres of additional protected floodplain and wetland easements in the state to protect water quality resources and provide for wildlife. Many of these easements lie in critical migratory areas for waterfowl and other birds such as the Wabash River, Goose Pond, Kankakee Marsh, and Muscatatuck River Corridor.
Over the last two years, NRCS has invested more than $600 million across the country in ACEP funding to help landowners engage in voluntary conservation to provide long-term protection of an estimated 250,000 acres of farmland, grassland, and wetlands through more than 750 new easements.
ACEP applications may be submitted at any time to NRCS; however, applications for the current funding round must be submitted on or before January 15, 2016.
To learn about ACEP and other technical and financial assistance available through Indiana NRCS conservation programs, visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/GetStarted or contact your District Conservationist Debbie Knepp or Soil Conservationist James Rodiguez at 574-936-2024 Ext. 4.