USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service is now accepting applications for its new Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP). The Agricultural Conservation Easement Program consolidates three former NRCS easement programs – the Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program, the Grasslands Reserve Program and the Wetlands Reserve Program.
“This is an exciting new opportunity for even more people to get involved in conserving natural resources,” said Terry Cosby, Ohio State Conservationist. “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, has two components, one for agricultural land easements and one for wetland reserve easements. Entities with the ability to purchase agricultural land easements that would prevent productive working lands from conversion to non-agricultural uses are encouraged to apply for ACEP. NRCS will give priority to applications that maximize protection of land devoted to food production. Cropland, rangeland, grassland, pastureland, and nonindustrial private forestland are eligible land uses.
Individual landowners may apply for wetland reserve easements and restorations. NRCS will fund restorations that have the greatest potential to protect and enhance habitat for migratory birds and other wildlife, improve water quality, reduce flood damage, and encourage outdoor education and recreation. Eligible lands include privately owned farmed or converted wetlands with the potential for successful and cost effective restorations.
Those interested in applying for ACEP must submit an application to Ohio NRCS by June 6, 2014. Applications are available at local USDA Service Centers and at www.nrcs.usda.gov/GetStarted. NRCS will begin evaluating agreements in late August.
Learn more about ACEP and other Farm Bill programs at www.nrcs.usda.gov/farmbill.