The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service has set a Feb. 12 deadline to apply for wetland and agricultural land easements in Missouri. Natural Resources Conservation Service provides technical and financial assistance to help private landowners, tribes, land trusts and other groups protect valuable lands through easements.

The Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) focuses on restoring and protecting wetlands as well as conserving productive agricultural lands and grasslands. Landowners are compensated for enrolling their land in easements.

Through ACEP Wetland Reserve Easements, the Natural Resources Conservation Service helps landowners restore and protect wetland ecosystems by compensating landowners for the easements. 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.

“The Agricultural Conservation Easement Program gives landowners a way to restore and preserve wetlands long-term while also easing the impact of the land not being available for agricultural production,” said Scott Edwards, Natural Resources Conservation Service State Conservationist. 

Wetland conservation easements are either permanent or for 30 years. 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. As part of the easement, Natural Resources Conservation Service and the landowner work together to develop a plan for the restoration and maintenance of the wetland.

Through ACEP Agricultural Land Easements, the Natural Resources Conservation Service  provides funds to conservation partners to purchase conservation easements on private working lands. This program helps keep working lands working, especially in areas experiencing development pressure.

Partners include state or local agencies, non-profits and tribes. Landowners continue to own their property but voluntarily enter into a legal agreement with a cooperating entity to purchase an easement. The cooperating entity applies for matching funds from the Natural Resources Conservation Service for the purchase of an easement from the landowner, permanently protecting its agricultural use and conservation values. Landowners do not apply directly to the Natural Resources Conservation Service for funding under this program. Easements are permanent. Eligible lands include privately owned cropland, rangeland, grassland, pastureland and forestlands.

Landowners and tribes interested in ACEP Wetland Reserve Easements and partners interested in ACEP Agricultural Land Easements should contact their local USDA service center. Applications for ACEP are taken on a continuous basis, but only those Missouri applications received by Feb. 12 will be ranked and considered for funding this year.