The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is accepting applications for enrollment in Wetland Reserve Easements (WRE), which help people, wildlife, and water quality. Landowners interested in applying for funding should contact their local NRCS office as soon as possible to begin the application process, which can take up to 2 years to complete.
Fortunately, applications are accepted throughout the year.
Phone numbers and emails for local offices can be found by going to the NRCS website, www.nrcs.usda.gov. Click on the “States Websites” tab in the upper right corner. Scroll down to Mississippi and you will be directed to the Mississippi office where you can click on the “Contact Us” tab for the information needed.
The program restores and enhances wetlands and improves wildlife habitat—often on marginal and frequently flooded crop land. Eligible lands include farmed or converted wetlands that can be successfully and cost-effectively restored.
Qualifying landowners receive a one-time, per-acre payment and must agree to cease farming on part or all of their land and maintain replanted wetland forests or existing forests for 30 years or in perpetuity. The program is voluntary.
In Mississippi, payments can be up to $3,100 per acre in Delta counties as well as in Hinds and Madison counties. Easement payments can be up to $2,050 per acre in the rest of the state. The NRCS also pays up to 100% of the cost of replanting native bottomland hardwoods and wetland areas. In some cases, natural regeneration is utilized to restore bottomland hardwoods.
Wildlife Mississippi, the Mississippi River Trust (MRT), and the Lower Mississippi River Conservation Committee (LMRCC) are continuing their partnership with the NRCS to protect and restore bottomland hardwood forests in the Lower Mississippi River batture, or the active floodplain between the river and levees or bluffs.
When fully implemented, the program will reduce sediment and nutrients entering waterways and the Gulf of Mexico, decrease flooding and the need for emergency disaster assistance, and improve fish and wildlife habitat in Mississippi and five other states.
The MRT manages the program in partnership with the LMRCC, a coalition of state and federal agencies, and the NRCS. Since 2012, the batture program has provided more than $123 million to landowners in Mississippi, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, and Tennessee.
Throughout Mississippi, nearly 200,000 acres have been placed under WREs. The program was first authorized under the 1990 Farm Bill. In the 2014 Farm Bill, Congress consolidated conservation programs for wetlands, grasslands, and farmland under the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program.
If you are interested in placing a wetland reserve easement on your land, don’t hesitate to contact your local NRCS office.