Indianapolis, IN, April 7, 2015 – State Conservationist Jane Hardisty announced today that Indiana’s USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is making available over $2.9 million in financial and technical assistance through the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP). NRCS will accept ACEP applications to help productive farms remain in agriculture and to protect Indiana’s critical wetlands and grasslands, home to diverse wildlife and plant species. Private landowners, tribes, and other eligible entities must submit applications for the current funding pool on or before May 15, 2015
“Conservation easements are an important tool to help landowners and partners achieve their goals to protect their land for future generations,” Hardisty said. “NRCS helps guide landowners throughout the easement process. We provide technical expertise, conservation planning and financial assistance.”
The 2014 Farm Bill consolidated three previous conservation easement programs into ACEP to make it easier for landowners to fully benefit from conservation initiatives. NRCS easement programs have been a critical tool in recent years for advancing conservation on private lands. In FY 2014, Indiana NRCS used $3.1 million in ACEP funding to enroll 865 acres of farmland, grassland and wetlands in new easements. According to Hardisty over 76,000 acres in the state have been enrolled in conservation easements through NRCS.
ACEP’s agricultural land easements not only protect the long-term viability of the nation’s food supply by preventing conversion of productive working lands to non-agricultural uses, but they also support environmental quality, historic preservation, wildlife habitat and protection of open space. State and local governments, not for profits and Indian tribes that have farmland or grassland protection programs are eligible to partner with NRCS to purchase conservation easements. A key change under the new agricultural land easement component is the new “grasslands of special environmental significance” that will protect high-quality grasslands that are under threat of conversion to cropping, urban development and other non-grazing uses.
Wetland reserve easements allow landowners to successfully enhance and protect habitat for wildlife on their land, reduce impacts from flooding, recharge groundwater and provide outdoor recreational and educational opportunities. NRCS provides technical and financial assistance directly to eligible landowners to restore, protect and enhance wetlands through a permanent or 30-year easement. Tribal landowners also have the option of enrolling in 30-year contracts.
ACEP applications may be submitted at any time to NRCS; however, applications for the current funding round must be submitted on or before May 15, 2015.
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 St. Joseph County District Conservationist Debbie Knepp or Soil Conservationsit James Rodriguez at 574-936-2024 ext. 4.
For more information about easements in Indiana, visit: http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/in/programs/easements/