USDA Invests in Wetlands

USDA Invests in Wetlands

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has awarded $44.6 million through its Wetland Reserve Enhancement Partnership to support 10 wetland-enhancement projects on private and tribal agricultural lands in 12 states, including Wisconsin.

Laguna01.jpgRecipients for each project are providing more than $4.3 million in matching funds, bringing the total investment to about $49 million.

The projects will help protect, restore or enhance 15,000 wetland acres in critical watersheds across the United States.

In Wisconsin, USDA funding will go toward improving habitat quality of Wetland Reserve Easement properties by increasing participation in management by Wetland Reserve Easement participating landowners.

More than 600 properties are enrolled in Wetland Reserve Easement and Wetland Reserve Enhancement Program in Wisconsin, which together encompass more than 60,000 acres throughout the state.

The abundant and widespread distribution of the properties makes it difficult to secure large-scale shared-management agreements as is common practice in states such as Nebraska and Missouri. In order to increase the use of cost-effective management across the properties, the new project will work to increase landowner engagement in property management.

The lead partner for Wisconsin’s project is the Wisconsin Wetland Association. The proposed Natural Resources Conservation Service investment is $129,000, and the proposed partner investment is $129,000.

The Wetland Reserve Enhancement Program is a special enrollment option under the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program. Wetland Reserve Easements enable landowners to reduce impacts from flooding, recharge groundwater, enhance and protect wildlife habitat, and provide outdoor recreational and educational opportunities.

The voluntary nature of Natural Resources Conservation Service easement programs allows integration of wetland restoration on agricultural land, providing benefits to farmers who enroll in the program, as well as benefits to rural communities where the wetlands exist.

Projects bring together partners leveraging technical and financial resources to address local concerns, such as water quality and flooding. Since 2009 private landowners, tribes and entities like land trusts and conservation organizations have enrolled nearly 1.3 million acres in Natural Resources Conservation Service wetland-easement programs for a total agency investment of $3.2 billion in financial and technical assistance.

Source: Agri View