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NRCS Accepting Applications for Agricultural and Wetland Conservation Easements

Hells Canyon Journal of Halfway, Oregon

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Do you want to keep your farm or ranch in agriculture for future generations? Do you want to protect your agricultural land from future development? Do you want to restore wetland habitat on your land and protect it for migratory birds, fish and other wildlife?

USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service in Oregon offers easement programs to help private landowners, state and local governments, Indian tribes, and non-profit groups protect Oregon's working agricultural lands and wetlands for future generations.

NRCS is accepting applications for the new Agricultural Conservation Easements Program (ACEP). Applications must be submitted by November 18 to be considered for this year's priority funding. Applications received after November 18 will be given secondary consideration for funding depending on availability.

NRCS will rank applications based on identified natural resource concerns and priority areas throughout the state. Easement priority areas in Oregon include critical water bird habitat, Coho and steelhead salmon habitat, sage grouse habitat, grasslands and more.

"The ACEP is an exciting new opportunity for private landowners and conservation partners to ensure the long-term protection and vitality of Oregon's working agricultural lands and wetlands," said Oregon State Conservationist Ron Alvarado. "We encourage state and local governments, non-governmental organizations, Indian tribes and private landowners to contact their local NRCS office to see how our easement programs can help them achieve long-term natural resources goals."

Through the ACEP, NRCS provides financial and technical assistance to secure easements for both working agricultural lands and for wetlands. The program has two components: one for Agricultural Land Easements (ALE) and one for Wetland Reserve Easements (WRE).

Under the ALE component, NRCS provides funds to eligible entities (such as non-profit conservation groups) to purchase permanent easements that protect the agricultural use and conservation values of the land. These easements prevent productive working lands from being converted to non-agricultural uses, keeping the land in agriculture for future generations. They support and maximize protection of land devoted to food and fiber production. Cropland, rangeland, grassland, pastureland and non-industrial private forestland are all eligible for ALE.

Under the WRE component, NRCS provides funding directly to private landowners for the purchase of 30-year or permanent easements and for restoration activities. These easements restore and enhance wetlands and improve habitat for a variety of fish, migratory birds and other wildlife. WRE projects also improve water quality, reduce flood damage, and encourage outdoor education and recreation. Eligible lands include farmed or converted wetlands that can be successfully and cost-effectively restored.

As a new program in the 2014 Farm Bill, the ACEP combines NRCS' former Farm and Ranch Lands Protection, Grassland Reserve and Wetlands Reserve programs.

Learn more about ACEP opportunities in Oregon by visiting the NRCS Oregon ACEP webpage at: http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/or/programs/easements/acep.



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Original Publication Date: October 21, 2015



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