USDA Seeks Partners to Protect and Restore Critical Wetlands in Florida
Gainesville, FL, June 23, 2015 – USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service announces the availability of $17.5 million in financial and technical assistance nationwide to help eligible conservation partners voluntarily protect, restore and enhance critical wetlands on private and tribal agricultural lands.
Funding will be provided through the Wetland Reserve Enhancement Partnership (WREP), a special enrollment option under the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program’s Wetland Reserve Easement component, created through the 2014 Farm Bill. It is administered by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). WREP was formerly known as the Wetlands Reserve Enhancement Program. Under WREP, states, local units of governments, non-governmental organizations and American Indian tribes collaborate with USDA through multi-year cooperative and partnership agreements. Partners are required to contribute a funding match for financial or technical assistance. These partners work directly with eligible landowners interested in enrolling their agricultural land into conservation wetland easements.
“USDA has leveraged partnerships to accomplish a great deal on Florida’s wetlands over the past two decades, State Conservationist Russell Morgan said. “This year’s funding will help strengthen these partnerships and achieve greater wetland acreage.”
Wetland reserve easements allow landowners to successfully enhance and protect habitat for wildlife on their lands, reduce impacts from flooding, recharge groundwater and provide outdoor recreational and educational opportunities. The voluntary nature of NRCS' easement programs allows effective integration of wetland restoration on working landscapes, providing benefits to farmers and ranchers who enroll in the program, as well as benefits to the local and rural communities where the wetlands exist.
Projects can range from individual to watershed-wide to ecosystem-wide. Today’s announcement builds on the roughly $332 million USDA has announced this year to protect and restore agricultural working lands, grasslands and wetlands. Under the former Wetlands Reserve Program, private landowners, tribes and entities such as land trusts and conservation organizations enrolled 2.7 million acres through 14,500 agreements for a total NRCS and partner investment of $4.3 billion in financial and technical assistance.
Proposals must be submitted to NRCS state office in Gainesville by July 31, 2015. Contact information can be found on Florida NRCS website. Visit NRCS’s ACEP webpage to learn more about wetland conservation options.
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