Funding available to help protect, restore sensitive lands

Natural Resources Conservation Service
Farm Forum

State Conservationist Jeffrey Zimprich recently announced South Dakota’s USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service is making available $6 million to help landowners protect and restore key farmlands, grasslands, and wetlands.

The funding is provided through the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program, created to protect water resources and wildlife habitat and encourage private landowners to maintain land for farming.

Applications are accepted on a continual basis. All eligible applications received prior to March 31, 2020, will be considered for funding.

The program streamlines the conservation easement options into two primary components: a wetlands reserve component, where the NRCS works directly with landowners to restore and protect their agricultural wetlands, and a working lands component, where NRCS provides assistance to partners with farmland protection programs to purchase agricultural land easements.

Wetland reserve easements allow landowners to successfully restore, enhance, and protect habitat for wildlife on their lands, reduce damage from flooding, recharge groundwater, and provide outdoor recreational and educational opportunities.

Eligible landowners can choose to enroll in a permanent or 30-year easement.

Applicants also have the option to enroll with reservation of grazing rights. Under this component, the landowner reserves the additional right to graze, following a NRCS approved grazing management plan.

Agricultural land easements not only protect the long-term viability of the nations food supply by preventing conversion of productive working lands to non-agricultural uses, they also support environmental quality, wildlife habitat, historic preservation and protection of open spaces.

State and local governments, nongovernmental organizations, and Native American Tribes that have farmlands or grassland protection programs are eligible to partner with NRCS and individual landowners to protect farmland through easements.

To learn about the program and other technical and financial assistance available through South Dakota NRCS, visit nrcs.usda.gov/getstarted or contact your district conservationist at your local USDA Service Center http://bit.ly/contactnrcssd.

For information about easements, visit nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/sd/programs/easements.