Acting State Conservationist Gerald Roach announced that Indiana’s USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is accepting applications for the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP). ACEP restores and protects Indiana’s critical wetlands and grasslands which helps productive farms remain in agriculture and provides important habitat for wildlife and plant species. Applications are due on or before August 17thto be considered for the 2019 fiscal year of funding that starts October 1, 2018.
“Conservation easements are an important tool to help landowners and partners achieve their goals to protect their land for future generations,” commented Roach. “This deadline is several months earlier than NRCS typically accepts applications, and interested applicants are encouraged to not miss the deadline,” he added.
NRCS easement programs have been a critical tool in recent years for advancing conservation on private lands. In FY 2017, Indiana NRCS allocated $11.1 million in ACEP funding to enroll 2,960 acres of wetland and farmland in conservation easements. According to Roach over 75,000 acres in the state have now been enrolled through NRCS.
Wetland Reserve Easements (WRE) have many environmental benefits including reduced impacts from flooding, recharged groundwater, and improved wildlife habitat, along with many recreational and educational opportunities. Participants may choose either a permanent or 30-year easement to work with NRCS to restore, protect and enhance their wetlands.
ACEP’s Agricultural Land Easements (ALE) not only protect the long-term viability of the nation’s food supply by preventing the conversion of productive working lands to non-agricultural uses, but they also support environmental quality, historic preservation, wildlife habitat and protection of open space. A key component under the agricultural land easement is the “grasslands of special environmental significance,” which protects high-quality grasslands that are under threat of conversion to cropping, urban development and other non-grazing uses. State and local governments, not for profits and land trusts that have farmland or grassland protection programs are eligible to partner with NRCS to purchase these conservation easements.
“NRCS helps guide landowners throughout each step of the easement process,” said Roach. “We provide technical expertise, conservation planning and financial assistance.”
NRCS accepts applications at any time throughout the year; however, applications for the next funding round must be submitted on or before August 17, 2018.
To learn about ACEP and other technical and financial assistance available through Indiana NRCS conservation programs, visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/GetStarted or contact your district conservationist https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/in/contact/local/.
For more information about easements in Indiana, visit: https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/in/programs/easements/