Oklahoma USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), has announced that the agency is accepting applications for the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP). Deadline for submissions is January 19, 2018, for FY2018 funding.
ACEP has two components, one for Agricultural Land Easements (ALE) and one for Wetland Reserve Easements (WRE). Applications for ALE and WRE are accepted on a continuous basis with announced cut-off dates for funding consideration.
Created in the 2014 Farm Bill, ACEP protects critical water resources and wildlife habitat, and encourages private owners to maintain their land for farming and ranching. Through the voluntary sale of an easement, landowners limit future development to protect these key resources.
Under the ALE component, funds are provided to eligible entities that use ACEP funding to purchase permanent agricultural land easements that not only not only protect the long-term viability of the nation's food supply by preventing conversion of productive working lands to non-agricultural uses, they also support environmental quality, wildlife habitat, and historic preservation and protection of open spaces. Cropland, rangeland, grassland, pastureland and industrial private forest land private forestland are eligible. Native American Tribes, state and local governments, and non-governmental organizations that have farmland or grassland protection programs are eligible to partner with NRCS to purchase conservation easements.
Under the WRE component, funding is provided directly to landowners for the purchase of an easement and for restoration. Wetland reserve easements allow landowners to successfully restore, enhance, and protect habitat for wildlife on their lands, reduce damage from flooding, recharge groundwater, and provide outdoor recreational and educational opportunities. Eligible landowners can choose to enroll in a permanent or 30-year easement. Eligible lands include farmed or converted wetlands that can be successfully and cost-effectively restored.
USDA is committed to preserving working agricultural lands to help protect the long-term viability of farming across the country, as well as restoring and protecting vital sensitive wetlands that provide important wildlife habitat and improve water quality.
To apply, entities should submit application packages for funding by January 19, 2018. To find out more about the application process, visit the ACEP-ALE section of the Oklahoma NRCS website.