Iowa landowners interested in restoring agricultural land to natural wetlands through the USDA's Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) should apply by Dec. 1, 2011 at their local USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) office. This reminder comes from Monica Monk, Iowa NRCS Easement Programs Coordinator at the state NRCS office in Des Moines.
WRP is a voluntary program that provides technical and financial assistance to eligible private landowners and tribes to restore, protect and enhance wetlands in exchange for retiring eligible land from agriculture. WRP is a continuous signup program, although NRCS periodically makes funding selections as program funding allows. December 1 is the first cutoff date for this fiscal year's funding.
During fiscal year 2011, NRCS enrolled easements on more than 4,000 acres across Iowa at a value exceeding $15 million. Over the past 20 years, more than 156,000 acres have been restored or are in the process of being restored to wetlands in Iowa through WRP and similar federal programs.
What is the Wetlands Reserve Program? What land is eligible?
Wetlands provide habitat for wildlife, including threatened and endangered species, says Monk. Wetlands help improve water quality by filtering sediments and chemicals. Wetlands also reduce flooding, recharge groundwater, protect biological diversity and provide opportunities for educational, scientific and limited recreational activities.
Here are some facts about the USDA Wetlands Reserve Program:
Purpose: To develop and implement a conservation plan for restoration of wetlands previously altered for agricultural use.
Practices: Wetland restoration and wildlife habitat establishment.
Eligibility: Land that has been owned for seven years and that could be restored to wetland conditions.
Contract: Landowners may restore wetlands with permanent easements, 30-year easements or 10-year contracts. Permanent easements pay 100% of the easement value of the land and 100% cost-share for restoration; 30-year easements pay 75% of the agricultural value and 75% cost-share for restoration; 10-year contracts pay 75% cost-share of restoration only. Permanent or 30-year easements are recorded with property easement deeds.
Contact: NRCS, or your local Soil and Water Conservation District or the Iowa Department of Natural Resources to get started with an application. To apply or to find out more about WRP eligibility and enrollment options, visit your local USDA Service Center or go online to www.ia.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/WRP.html.