CHAMPAIGN — Ivan Dozier, State Conservationist, has announced the application period for the 2021 Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP-WRE). USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) helps provide long-term protection of Illinois’ farmland, wetlands and grasslands through ACEP.
“The first application cut-off date has been established,” Dozier explains. “Right now we’re accepting applications for Wetland Reserve Easements (WRE). Applications that are received and meet program eligibility by Friday, Feb. 5 will be considered for the 2021 program.”
For ACEP-WRE in FY21, Illinois was allocated $4.5 million. NRCS may establish a second application funding cutoff opportunity later this year if all funds are not used in the first application cutoff or if more funds become available. Dozier reminds farmers and landowners they can apply for ACEP — and all conservation programs — at any time, as sign-up is continuous and applications can be submitted any time.
NRCS offers two types of easements through ACEP: Agricultural Land Easements (ALE) and Wetland Reserve Easements (WRE). NRCS will establish an application cutoff for ALE at a later date. NRCS is still finalizing ranking criteria for fiscal year 2021.
The Geographic Area Rate Caps (GARCs) are DRAFT but available for applicants to view. The GARCs establish the rate per acre that NRCS pays to landowners for the ACEP-WRE easement.
The purpose of the Wetland Reserve Easements (WRE) is to help landowners enhance and protect habitat for wetland wildlife on their lands, reduce impacts from flooding, recharge groundwater, provide outdoor recreation, and increase habitat for migratory waterfowl.
NRCS provides technical and financial assistance directly to private landowners to restore, protect and enhance wetlands through the purchase of these easements, and eligible landowners can choose to enroll in either a permanent easement or a 30-year easement. To apply for a wetlands easement through ACEP - WRE, visit NRCS at your local USDA Service Center by going to www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/il/contact/local/
Find more information about ACEP and other NRCS conservation programs in Illinois online at https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/il/programs/.