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USDA Celebrates 5 Million Acres Enrolled in Conservation Easements
USAgNet - 04/05/2021

The U.S. Department of Agriculture and private landowners have partnered to protect more than 5 million acres of wetlands, grasslands, and prime farmland - an area the size of New Jersey. Since October, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has enrolled 110,000 acres in new conservation easements, bringing USDA to this important conservation milestone.

“USDA is committed to partnering with our nation’s farmers, ranchers, and private landowners to conserve our nation’s natural resources for future generations and deliver conservation and recreational benefits to rural America,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “We celebrate their efforts in helping us protect sensitive lands, create jobs, expand access to the outdoors, and help tackle climate change. We look forward to building on these partnerships.”

NRCS has offered conservation easements through the Farm Bill for 28 years, through programs like the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP), which helps landowners, land trusts, and other entities protect, restore, and enhance wetlands, grasslands, and working farms and ranches through conservation easements. These programs benefit participants and the American public by creating cleaner air, water, and open spaces.

Wetland easements — totaling over 2.8 million acres nationwide — improve water quality by filtering sediments and chemicals, reducing flooding, recharging groundwater, protecting biological diversity, and providing opportunities for educational, scientific, and undeveloped recreational activities.

Wetland easements are also crucial to wildlife, and are credited for the recovery of the Louisiana black bear in 2019 and the Oregon chub in 2015. Whooping cranes rely on wetland easements on their cross-country treks and for raising young. Also, the wet meadows of sagebrush country are an oasis for wildlife like sage grouse.

Agricultural land easements protect the long-term viability of the nation’s food supply by preventing conversion of productive working lands to non-agricultural uses. These easements have been crucial to protecting rangelands and farmsteads from urban encroachment, ensuring the most productive lands remain working lands.


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