The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) recently announced they are accepting applications for the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP). ACEP provides financial and technical assistance to landowners and Native American Tribes with conservation efforts on agricultural lands and wetlands. The application deadline to be considered for the first ranking period is December 2, 2016.
ACEP consists of two separate components, the Agricultural Land Easement (ALE) option and the Wetland Reserve Easement (WRE) option. These options are tailored to benefit different land types that meet the qualifications and are cost effective.
The ALE component is geared to protect agricultural lands devoted to food production from conversion into non-agricultural uses. The WRE component aims to restore, enhance and protect wetlands through the purchase of a wetlands reserve easement. Both programs assist in improving wildlife habitat.
“The Agricultural Conservation Easement Program is an exciting opportunity for more land owners to get involved in conserving Mississippi’s natural resources,” stated Kurt Readus, NRCS State Conservationist for Mississippi.
Wildlife Mississippi, the Mississippi River Trust and the Lower Mississippi River Conservation Committee are continuing their partnership agreement with the NRCS to protect and restore bottomland hardwood forests in the Lower Mississippi River batture (land between the river and primary levee) area. This partnership allows the enrollment of cropland that is marginal and subject to flooding along the unprotected floodplain of the Mississippi River. Enrolled lands would be planted to native bottomland hardwood species or allowed to regenerate naturally depending on site conditions.
Also, with the passing of the 2014 Farm Bill, new policy stipulates soils with “subclass w” in the land capability classes IV through VIII no longer count towards the county limit, opening up limited acreage in select counties where no enrollments have been allowed in previous years.
This program will help landowners remove land from agriculture that has seen repeated flooding from the Mississippi River and helps compensate them while restoring land back to bottomland hardwoods. It will help people, wildlife and water quality.
Landowners, non-government organizations and Native American Tribes interested in participating in ACEP should visit the nearest USDA Service Center for more information. Applications submitted by December 2, 2016 will be considered for the initial Fiscal Year 2017 funding period. NRCS financial-assistance programs offer a continuous sign-up process, however specific sign-up deadlines are established to rank, contract and fund qualified lands.
For more information, visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/site/ms/home/. Applications are available at www.nrcs.usda.gov/GetStarted.
article provided by James Cummins. James L. Cummins is executive director of Wildlife Mississippi, a non-profit, conservation organization founded to conserve, restore and enhance fish, wildlife and plant resources throughout Mississippi. Their website is www.wildlifemiss.org.