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Under the Agriculture Conservation Easement Program, landowners can voluntarily restore, enhance and protect wetlands on their property by enrolling their land in a Wetland Reserve Easement. The NRCS is looking for sites where former wetlands have been drained, altered, or manipulated for agriculture production. The landowner must be interested in restoring the wetland and then protecting the site.

 The landowner may choose either a permanent conservation easement or a 30-year easement. The permanent conservation easement remains with the land, regardless of future ownership. With this option, USDA pays 100% of the easement value and up to 100% of the restoration costs. If the landowner chooses a 30-year easement, USDA pays up to 75% of the easement value and up to 75% of the restoration costs.

Under both of these options USDA pays all the costs associated with closing and recording the easement.

Applications for the WRE program are accepted on a continual basis, but Iowa has set Aug. 12, 2019 as the cutoff date for consideration for FY2020 funding and selection.

In response to this spring’s widespread flooding, NRCS also announced last week that over $200 million would be made available to 11 states, including Iowa, to fund conservation easements on land damaged by flooding and other natural disasters. Funds will be made available through the Floodplain Easement component of the Emergency Watershed Protection Program. The program’s primary emphasis is to retire frequently flooded bottomland from agricultural uses, which would allow the unimpeded flow of floodwaters and improve wildlife habitat.

EWPP-FPE allows only for permanent easements. To be eligible, the cropland, pasture, or timberland must have been damaged by flooding during the past year or at least two times in the past 10 years. The landowner will enter into a contract for the restoration work and be reimbursed at 100%.

Both of the above easement programs allow the landowner to retain several rights to the property involved, including control of access and undeveloped recreational uses (including hunting). Although, the landowner is still responsible for property taxes and other taxes that may be assessed.

If you have property you are interested in exploring these options on, please get more information at www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/ia/programs/easements/acep/ or contact the Cerro Gordo Soil and Water Conservation District at (641)424-4452.

Programs Available for Wetlands

 

Under the Agriculture Conservation Easement Program (ACEP), landowners can voluntarily restore, enhance, and protect wetlands on their property by enrolling their land in a Wetland Reserve Easement (WRE).  The NRCS is looking for sites where former wetlands have been drained, altered, or manipulated for agriculture production.  The landowner must be interested in restoring the wetland and then protecting the site.

 

The landowner may choose either a permanent conservation easement or a 30-year easement.  The permanent conservation easement remains with the land, regardless of future ownership.  With this option, USDA pays 100% of the easement value and up to 100% of the restoration costs.  If the landowner chooses a 30-year easement, USDA pays up to 75% of the easement value and up to 75% of the restoration costs.  Under both of these options USDA pays all the costs associated with closing and recording the easement.

 

After a producer makes an initial application, a team of NRCS employees will make a site visit to determine eligibility; some examples of eligible land include: wetlands, meadows, or potholes that were drained for agricultural production purposes, land that is adjacent to restorable wetlands that contribute to the wetland functions, previously restored wetlands, land that has been substantially altered by flooding where there is a good chance of wetland restoration at a reasonable cost, and existing or restorable riparian habitat corridors that connect protected wetlands. Applications for the WRE program are accepted on a continual basis, but Iowa has set August 12, 2019 as the cutoff date for consideration for FY2020 funding and selection.

 

Additionally, in response to this spring’s widespread flooding, NRCS announced last week that over $200 million would be made available to eleven states, including Iowa, to fund conservation easements on land damaged by flooding and other natural disasters.  Funds will be made available through the Floodplain Easement component of the Emergency Watershed Protection Program (EWPP-FPE).  The program’s primary emphasis is to retire frequently flooded bottomland from agricultural uses, which would allow the unimpeded flow of floodwaters and improve wildlife habitat.

 

EWPP-FPE allows only for permanent easements. To be eligible, the cropland, pasture, or timberland must have been damaged by flooding during the past year or at least two times in the past 10 years.  Restoration work on the land involved could include: seeding native plant communities, plugging drainage ditches, breaking tile lines, and possibly some shallow water excavation to enhance surface hydrology and improve habitats.  The landowner will enter into a contract for the restoration work and be reimbursed at 100%.

 

Both of the above easement programs allow the landowner to retain several rights to the property involved, including control of access and undeveloped recreational uses (including hunting). Although, the landowner is still responsible for property taxes and other taxes that may be assessed.  If you have property you are interested in exploring these options on, please get more information at www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/ia/programs/easements/acep/ or contact the Cerro Gordo Soil and Water Conservation District at (641)424-4452.

 

 

 

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Dennis Carney is a Cerro Gordo Soil and Water District commissioner. The local office can be found at 1415 S. Monroe, Mason City. Online: cerrogordoswcd.org.

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