USDA invests $28M in new projects to restore lost wetland functions, benefits on ag landscapes
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Agriculture is investing $28 million in six new Wetland Reserve Enhancement Partnership (WREP) projects and four ongoing ones, which enable conservation partners and producers to work together to return critical wetland functions to agricultural landscapes. Partners will contribute $2.82 million, bringing the total investments to $30.82 million.
“Wetlands have tremendous benefits ranging from cleaner water, to flood prevention, to enhancing wildlife habitat to sequestering carbon,” said Terry Cosby, acting chief for USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service. “The Wetland Reserve Enhancement Partnership helps partners cover more ground with producers in expanding the footprint of healthy wetlands across our country.”
Since 2014, WREP projects across 11 states have resulted in 136 closed wetland easements and wetland easements pending closure, protecting more than 27,425 acres. In total, NRCS has supported landowners in protecting more than 2.85 million acres through wetland easement programs nationwide.
New projects include:
Nebraska Playa Wetlands: Nebraska Community Foundation
This project seeks to enroll 450 acres of playa wetlands to protect, restore, and manage wetland ecosystems and associated uplands. Restoration of these wetlands and associated upland buffers will help provide habitat for a variety of plants and animals that depend on thriving wetlands, wetland forests and grasslands, and creating a win-win situation for producers, migratory birds, resident wildlife and the citizens of rural communities. Wetland restorations are expected to address multiple resource concerns, including wildlife habitat, water quality and water quantity. NRCS will invest more than $860,000 for the first year.
Under the Biden-Harris Administration, USDA is engaged in a whole-of-government effort to combat the climate crisis and conserve and protect our nation’s lands, biodiversity, and natural resources including our soil, air and water. Through conservation practices and partnerships, USDA aims to enhance economic growth and create new streams of income for farmers, ranchers, producers and private foresters. Successfully meeting these challenges will require USDA and our agencies to pursue a coordinated approach alongside USDA stakeholders, including State, local, and Tribal governments.
WREP is a component of ACEP-WRE through which NRCS enters into agreements with eligible partners to target and leverage resources to address high priority wetland protection, restoration, and enhancement activities and improve wildlife habitat on eligible lands. WREP enables NRCS to collaborate with partners on high-priority wetland restoration projects to return critical wetland functions and improve wildlife habitat.
Through selected WREP projects, partners voluntarily work with agricultural producers to execute targeted wetland protection, restoration and enhancement activities on eligible agriculture lands. WREP enables effective integration of wetland restoration on working agricultural landscapes, providing meaningful benefits to farmers and ranchers who enroll in the program and to the communities where the wetlands exist.
Restoring wetland ecosystems helps filter sediments and chemicals to improve water quality downstream, enhance wildlife and aquatic habitat, reduce impacts from flooding, recharge groundwater and offers recreational benefits.
HOW TO GET INVOLVED
Are you looking to help restore the quality and abundance of our nation’s wetlands? Check with your local USDA Service Center for wetland restoration project opportunities. NRCS will determine if the acres you offer are eligible for the program. Agricultural producers with high priority acres, based on competitive selection, may receive an offer.
Learn more about WREP program opportunities by visiting the WREP webpage.
USDA touches the lives of all Americans each day in so many positive ways. In the Biden-Harris Administration, USDA is transforming America’s food system with a greater focus on more resilient local and regional food production, ensuring access to healthy and nutritious food in all communities, building new markets and streams of income for farmers and producers using climate smart food and forestry practices, making historic investments in infrastructure and clean energy capabilities in rural America, and committing to equity across the Department by removing systemic barriers and building a workforce more representative of America. To learn more, visit http://www.usda.gov.
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Of the approximately 2,270 acres that burned in the April 1, 2021, Medora, N.D., fire, rancher Doug Tescher said all but about 100 acres were U.S. Forest Service land that he utilizes for summer grazing.