December 23, 2016
Huron, SD, – The United States Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) serving South Dakota is making approximately $10 million in financial and technical assistance available through the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP).
The 2014 Farm Bill consolidated three previous conservation easement programs into ACEP to make it easier for diverse agricultural landowners to fully benefit from conservation initiatives. NRCS easement programs have been a critical tool in recent years for advancing landscape-scale private lands conservation.
In Fiscal Year 2016, NRCS in South Dakota used approximately $10 million in ACEP funding to enroll an estimated 2,600 acres of farmland, ranchland, grassland and wetlands through 22 new easements across the state.
ACEP’s agricultural land easements not only protects the long-term viability of the nation’s food supply by preventing conversion of productive working lands to non-agricultural uses, but they also support environmental quality, historic preservation, wildlife habitat and protection of open spaces.
American Indian 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. A key change under the new agricultural land easement component is the new “grassland of special significance” that will protect high quality grasslands under threat of conversion to cropping, urban development and other non-grazing uses.
Wetland reserve easements allow landowners to successfully enhance and protect habitat for wildlife on their lands, reduce impacts from flooding, recharge groundwater and provide outdoor recreational and educational opportunities. NRCS provides technical and financial assistance directly to private and tribal landowners to restore, protect and enhance wetlands through the purchase of these easements. Eligible landowners can choose to enroll in a permanent or 30-year easement; tribal landowners also have the option of enrolling in 30-year contracts.
ACEP applications can be submitted at any time to NRCS; however; applications for current funding round must be submitted by January 15, 2017. ACEP applications are currently being accepted for both agricultural land and wetlands reserve easements.