Landowners may enroll in ACEP to help wetlands

The 2020 Geographic Rate Caps for land submitted to conservation easements through USDA-NRCS’s Wetland Reserve Easements. (NRCS Photo)

CHAMPAIGN – Nationally, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) plans to invest $5.4 million in Illinois this year through the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) to help private landowners, restore and protect critical wetlands. NRCS is announcing the opportunity for landowners to enroll in the program and releasing information on the Illinois Geographic Area Rate Caps for 2020 Wetland Reserve Easements (WRE).

“For nearly three decades, NRCS has worked with landowners in Illinois to protect their wetlands,” said Ivan Dozier, NRCS state conservationist in Illinois. “Conservation easements are important tools for people trying to improve soil health, water and air quality and enhance wildlife habitat on their land.”

ACEP provides assistance to landowners helping conserve, restore and protect wetlands. NRCS accepts ACEP applications year-round, but applications are ranked and funded by enrollment period. The next 2020 application cut-off for Illinois ACEP Wetland Reserve Easements applications is April 13.

Through ACEP Wetland Reserve Easements, NRCS helps landowners restore, enhance, and protect wetland ecosystems. NRCS and the landowner work together to develop a plan for restoration work and maintenance of the easement.

Assistant State Conservationist for Easements, Paula Hingson, explained, “Seventy-five percent of the nation's wetlands are situated on private lands. Wetlands provide many benefits, including critical habitat for a wide array of wildlife species. They also store floodwaters, clean and recharge groundwater, sequester carbon, trap sediment and filter pollutants for clean water.”

Wetland conservation easements are permanent, or they can be established for 30 years or the maximum extent allowed by state law. Eligible lands include:

  • Farmed or converted wetlands that can successfully be restored;
  • Croplands or grasslands subject to flooding; and
  • Riparian areas that link protected wetland areas.

2020 Geographic Area Rate Caps (GARCs) for WRE

Dozier announced that the Geographic Area Rate Caps (GARCs) for 2020 remain the same as those used for 2019 for use in the WRE program.  These GARC values inform landowners of the dollars they will receive per acre for a Wetland Reserve Easement. The GARC Values distinguish cropland from non-cropland and range from $3,250 to $5,500 per acre.

See attached map to determine rates by Illinois county or visit Illinois NRCS website at:

https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/cmis_proxy/https/ecm.nrcs.usda.gov%3a443/fncmis/resources/WEBP/ContentStream/idd_50670971-0000-CC1D-8A94-9ED8E14E443B/0/GARC2020_IL+NRCS.pdf.

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