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Private Land Conservation

You don’t have to sell your land to contribute to the Healthy Rivers INitiative. A variety of conservation programs are available to eligible landowners interested in implementing practices for improved water quality or protecting and restoring wildlife habitat on their property. These programs range from permanent conservation easements to short-term agreements to establish habitat on your land and typically offer landowners technical and financial assistance.

Interested in learning more about what conservation programs might be the best fit for your interests? Contact your local DNR wildlife biologist to learn more and view a list of landowner and wildlife habitat assistance programs.

Wetland Reserve Easements

Wetland Reserve Easements administered by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has been an incredibly successfully conservation program contributing over 6,000 acres of preserved habitat on private land to the nearly 38,000 acres now under permanent protection in the Healthy Rivers INitiative.

NRCS provides technical and financial assistance directly to private landowners to restore, protect, and enhance wetlands through the purchase of a wetland reserve easement. Permanent Easements are conservation easements in perpetuity. NRCS pays 100 percent of the easement value for the purchase of the easement. Additionally, NRCS pays between 75 to 100 percent of the restoration costs.

WRE Eligibility

Land eligible for agricultural easements includes cropland, rangeland, grassland, pastureland and nonindustrial private forest land. NRCS will prioritize applications that protect agricultural uses and related conservation values of the land and those that maximize the protection of contiguous acres devoted to agricultural use.

Land eligible for wetland reserve easements includes farmed or converted wetland that can be successfully and cost-effectively restored. NRCS will prioritize applications based the easement’s potential for protecting and enhancing habitat for migratory birds and other wildlife.

To enroll land through agricultural land easements, NRCS enters into cooperative agreements with eligible partners. Each easement is required to have an agricultural land easement plan that promotes the long-term viability of the land.

To enroll land through wetland reserve easements, NRCS enters into purchase agreements with eligible private landowners or Indian tribes that include the right for NRCS to develop and implement a wetland reserve restoration easement plan. This plan restores, protects, and enhances the wetland’s functions and values.

How to Apply

To enroll land through agricultural land easements or wetland reserve easements, landowners may apply at any time at the local USDA Service Center. Find your local NRCS contact.

More Information

For more information about the Wetland Reserve Easements, please contact Beth Clarizia, NRCS Easement Program Specialist, 317-295-5821.