Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced Oct. 15 that the U.S. Department of Agriculture will award $30 million to projects in six states — including Missouri — to protect, restore and enhance wetlands on private and tribal agricultural lands.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced Oct. 15 that the U.S. Department of Agriculture will award $30 million to projects in six states — including Missouri — to protect, restore and enhance wetlands on private and tribal agricultural lands. The projects are being funded under the Wetland Reserve Enhancement Partnership (WREP), a program authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill.

“Through locally led partnerships like these, USDA is targeting conservation in the places that make sense, allowing us to address local concerns,” Vilsack said.

Created by the 2014 Farm Bill, WREP is a special enrollment option under the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program’s Wetland Reserve Easement component. Through WREP, which is administered by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), states, local units of governments, non-governmental organizations and American Indian tribes collaborate with NRCS through cooperative and partnership agreements. These partners work with tribal and private landowners who voluntarily enroll eligible land into easements to protect, restore and enhance wetlands on their properties.

Wetland reserve easements allow landowners to successfully enhance and protect habitat for wildlife on their lands, reduce impacts from flooding, recharge groundwater and provide outdoor recreational and educational opportunities. The voluntary nature of NRCS’ easement programs allows effective integration of wetland restoration on working landscapes, providing benefits to farmers and ranchers who enroll in the program, as well as benefits to the local and rural communities where the wetlands exist.

NRCS awarded grants for projects in Iowa, Kentucky, Missouri, Mississippi, Nebraska and Tennessee.

2015-2016 WREP Projects:

Missouri: Partners will enhance 9,500 acres of existing wetlands and restore 500 acres of critically imperiled wet prairie habitats on existing USDA easements improving a total of 10,000 acres. Strong partner support across 30 counties will build on the success of ongoing conservation easement programs in the state. NRCS plans to invest $2.4 million in this project.

WREP partners contribute a funding match for financial or technical assistance. These partners work directly with eligible landowners interested in enrolling their agricultural land into conservation wetland easements.