USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service is now accepting applications for its new Agricultural Conservation Easements Program (ACEP). Up to $366 million is available nationwide for the purchase of conservation easements on eligible agricultural lands and wetlands.
“This is an exciting new opportunity for even more people to get involved in conserving natural resources,” said Tennessee State Conservationist Kevin Brown. “We encourage state and local governments, non-governmental organizations and private landowners to contact their local NRCS office to find out how to apply.”
The ACEP, created through the 2014 Farm Bill, funds easements for agricultural lands and wetland reserves. Approved agricultural easements would prevent productive working lands from being converted to non-agricultural uses and maximize protection of land devoted to food production. Cropland, rangeland, grassland, pastureland and nonindustrial private forestland are eligible.
Wetland reserve easements would restore and enhance wetlands and improve habitat. Eligible lands include farmed or converted wetlands that can be successfully and cost-effectively restored.
Applications are currently being accepted for wetlands reserve easements and will be rated according to the easement’s potential for protecting and enhancing habitat for migratory birds, fish and other wildlife.
Applications must be submitted to Tennessee NRCS by June 6, 2014. Applications are available at local USDA Service Center and at www.nrcs.usda.gov/GetStarted
Agreements will be evaluated starting in late August. The ACEP combines NRCS’ former Farm and Ranch Lands Protection, Grassland Reserve and Wetlands Reserve programs. Learn more about ACEP and other Farm Bill programs at www.nrcs.usda.gov/farmbill.