USDA announces new landmark conservation initiatives
Through the 2014 Farm Bill’s new conservation programs, USDA NRCS is making available up to $366 million for conservation easements under ACEP to state and local governments, Indian tribes, non-governmental organizations and private landowners. ACEP consolidates three former easement programs—the Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program, the Grassland Reserve Program and the Wetlands Reserve Program.
VPA-HIP is a competitive grant program that enables state and tribal governments to increase opportunities for owners and managers of private lands who want to make their land available for public recreation. Up to $20 million is available this year for VPA-HIP. Both programs have application deadlines later this spring.
Funding for the ACEP and VPA-HIP programs is provided through the 2014 Farm Bill, which authorizes services and programs that impact every American and millions of people around the world. The new Farm Bill builds on historic economic gains in rural America over the past five years, while achieving meaningful reform and billions of dollars in savings for taxpayers. Vilsack said that quickly and effectively implementing new programs and reforms to existing ones called for by the 2014 Farm Bill is a top priority for USDA. Learn more about the Farm Bill at www.nrcs.usda.gov/FarmBill.
Agricultural Conservation Easements Program
USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service administers the two components of ACEP, one for agricultural land easements and one for wetland reserve easements.
Under the agricultural land component, funds are provided to eligible entities that can use ACEP funding to purchase agricultural land easements that protect the agricultural use and conservation values of eligible land.
Eligible lands for agricultural land component include cropland, rangeland, grassland, pastureland and nonindustrial private forest land. Application priority will be given to proposals preventing conversion of productive working lands to non-agricultural uses and maximizing the protection of land devoted to growing the nation’s food supply.
Under the wetland reserve component, funding is provided to landowners for the purchase of an easement and for restoration funds to restore and enhance wetlands, improving habitat for migratory birds and other wildlife. Lands that are eligible for a wetland reserve easement include farmed or converted wetlands that can be successfully and cost-effectively restored. Applications also will be prioritized based on the easement’s potential for protecting and enhancing habitat for migratory birds, fish and other wildlife.