January 25, 2019

NRCS Conservation Easement Programs Update: 1/25/2019

The application cycle for funding NRCS Conservation Easement Programs is still open. NRCS accepts Conservation Easement applications on a continuous basis (please note that program requirements and forms are subject to change as guidance is provided for implementation of the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018).

For general questions on NRCS conservation easements please contact: Roney Gutierrez Roney.Gutierrez@fl.usda.gov 352-338-9502
If you are interested in pursuing a Wetland Reserve Easement (WRE) please contact: Crenel Francis Crenel.francis@fl.usda.gov (352) 338-9508

If you are interested in the Agricultural Land Easement Program (ALE), or if you are a funding partner interesting in securing matching funding, please contact: Nina Bhattacharyya nina.bhattacharyya@fl.usda.gov (352) 338-9554

See: www.nrcs.usda.gov/ for information and application materials.

NRCS Conservation Easements are critical to the protection of Florida’s water resources. These programs PREVENT further decreases in water quality through land protection and help FIX water quality issues by restoring wetlands so they can hold and clean water before it reaches our coastal estuaries.

Wetland Reserve Easement (WRE)
The Wetland Reserve Easement Program (WRE) is an easement program that purchases conservation easements on degraded or former wetlands in need of restoration. NRCS prioritizes wetlands that have been converted into other agricultural uses. NRCS will prioritize applications based on the easement’s potential for protecting and enhancing habitat for migratory birds and other wildlife. WRE’s can be more restrictive than other easements; NRCS has the right to restrict grazing rights for restoration purposes. NRCS has not restricted grazing rights in Florida as part of the WRE program, and they indicate it is highly unlikely they ever will, as cattle are an important management tool in Florida. Landowners also have the option to secure grazing rights on a WRE in perpetuity for a reduced rate. WRE prices are set by the Geographic Area Cap Rate (GARC); they are not subject to appraisal.

Agricultural Land Easements (ALE)
The ALE is a partnership program and is geared for working landscapes. NRCS provides financial assistance to eligible partners for purchasing Agricultural Land Easements that protect the agricultural use and conservation values of eligible land. Eligible partners include Indian tribes, state and local governments and non-governmental organizations that have farmland or grassland protection programs. The ALE program will provide up to 50% match for working agricultural lands and 75% where there are grasslands of special significance. NRCS does not purchase these easements, rather they contribute to the partner that is acquiring the easement. The Rural and Family Lands Protection Program (RFLPP) under the Florida Forest Service has been successfully partnering with the NRCS ALE program, enabling them to leverage their dollars; Water Management Districts and County Land Conservation Programs are also pursuing funding partnerships with the ALE program.

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