Last updated: May 06. 2014 2:23PM - 262 Views

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USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is now accepting applications for its new Agricultural Conservation Easements Program (ACEP). Funds are available for the purchase of conservation easements on eligible agricultural lands and wetlands.

“This is an exciting new opportunity for even more people to get involved in conserving natural resources, “ said Oklahoma State Conservationist Gary O’Neill. “We encourage Indian tribes, state and local governments, non-governmental organizations and private landowners to contact their local NRCS office to find out how to apply.” The ACEP, created through the 2014 Farm Bill, funds easements for agricltural lands and wetland reserves. The ACEP combines NRCS’ former Farm and Ranch Lands Protection, Grassland Reserve and Wetlands Reserve Programs. Wetland reserve easements would restore and enhance wetlands and improve habitat. Eligible lands include farmed or converted wetlands that can be successfully and cost-effectively restored.

Applications are currently being accepted for wetland reserve easements and will be rated according to the easement’s potential for protecting and enhancing habitat for migratory birds, fish, and other wildlife. Applications are accepted on a continous basis but must be submitted to Oklahoma NRCS by June 6, 2014 to be considered for this year’s funding. Applications are available at local USDA Service Centers and at: www.nrcs.usda.gov/GetStarted.

Approved Agricultural Land Easements would maximize protection of land devoted to food production by preventing productive working lands from being converted to non-agricultural uses. Cropland, rangeland, grassland, pastureland and nonindustrial private forestland are eligible. NRCS provides financial assistance to eligible partners for purchasing Agricultural Land Easements that protect the agricultural use and conservation values of eligible land. In the case of working farms, the program helps farmers and ranchers keep their land in agriculture. The program also protects grazing uses and related conservation values by conserving grassland, including rangeland, pastureland and shrubland. Eligible partners include Indian tribes, state and local governments and non-governmental organizations that have farmland or grassland protection programs.

Applications for Agricultural Land Easements are submitted through eligible partners. Eligible partner applications can be found at: http://forms.sc.egov.usda.gov/efcommon/eFileServices/eForms/NRCS-CPA-41ANRCS-CPA-41A.PDF Partner applications must be submitted with parcel information to NRCS State Office by June 6.

Landowners interested in applying for the Agricultural Land Easements can search for land trust entities at www.findalandtrust.org More can be learned about ACEP and other Farm Bill programs at: www.nrcs.usda.gov/farmbill.

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