MADISON — The U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service in Wisconsin has announced the fiscal year 2021 signup deadline is Feb. 5, for Wetland Reserve Easement and Agricultural Land Easement applications.

The 2018 Farm Bill has provided NRCS with technical and financial assistance to help private landowners, tribes, land trusts and other groups protect these valuable lands.

The Agricultural Conservation Easement Program umbrella focuses on restoring and protecting wetlands as well as conserving productive agricultural lands and grasslands. The WRE component provides landowners compensation for enrolling their land in easements. The ALE component works with eligible partners to protect agricultural use and conservation values of eligible land.

Applications for WRE and ALE are taken on a continuous basis and they are ranked and considered for funding one time a year. Landowners who have applied for WRE and partners who have applied for ALE in the past need not apply again but may be asked to update their application documents. “There may be other funding opportunities for WRE later in the year. If you do not get an application in by Feb. 5, you may still submit one during the summer. We will consider those applications for funding in the 2022 fiscal year, which begins in October 2021,” said Greg Kidd, assistant state conservationist for easements.

Wetland Reserve Easements

Through ACEP-WRE, NRCS helps landowners and tribes to restore and protect wetland ecosystems. WREs are either permanent or for 30 years in length. Eligible lands include land that is drained and can successfully be restored and riparian areas that link protected wetland areas. As part of the easement, NRCS and the landowner work together to develop a plan for the restoration and maintenance of the wetland.

Agricultural Land Easements

Through ACEP-ALE, NRCS works with eligible partners who purchase Agricultural Land Easements  that protect the agricultural use and conservation values of eligible land. ALEs can help farmers and ranchers keep their land in agriculture. The program also protects grazing land by conserving grassland, rangeland, pastureland and shrubland. Eligible partners include Indian tribes, state and local governments and non-governmental organizations, such as Land Trusts that have farmland or grassland protection programs.

Note that NRCS does not require ACEP applicants to visit USDA Service Centers in person. Landowners can start their WRE applications by phone or online and follow up by mail or online. If the land qualifies, additional documentation such as an ownership deed and Farm Service Agency information will be required.

Online services are available to customers with an eAuth account, which provides access to the farmers.gov offsite link image portal where producers can view USDA farm loan information and payments and view and track certain USDA program applications and payments. An eAuthentication account is a way for one to interact with USDA websites online. It gives one the ability to identify yourself to the USDA via a User ID and password. It permits one to access a wide range of USDA applications across the many USDA agencies and their services. Customers who do not already have an eAuth account can enroll at www.farmers.gov/sign-in offsite link image.

Landowners and tribes interested in Wetland Reserve Easements can contact their local USDA Service Center offsite link image to get started. 

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