Wetlands Reserve Program application Dec. 31
The Wetlands Reserve Program sign-up period for Fiscal Year 2010 funding will end Dec. 31. A landowner must have a signed application turned in to their local Natural Resources Conservation Service office by the deadline according to Sara Thompson, WRP program coordinator, NRCS, Huron.
In South Dakota landowners have entered into nearly 400 WRP easements on 39,800 acres in 34 counties. The program gives landowners the option to enroll eligible land into 30-year or perpetual easement or to obtain cost share for restoring wetlands. Tribes may enroll into 30 year contracts. Administered by the NRCS, the WRP provides eligible landowners the technical and financial assistance they need to address wetland, wildlife habitat, soil, water, and related natural resource concerns.
"Any eligible landowner in South Dakota can apply for the WRP," said Thompson. "Applications for WRP are accepted on a continual basis, however, if landowners want to be considered in FY2010, they need to have their applications complete by Dec. 31."
Thompson said funds are available, and encourages any landowner thinking about WRP not to wait until the last minute to visit their local UDSA Service Center. "The WRP is a popular program with farmers looking to voluntarily conserve marginal cropland. With last year's flooding, now is the time to look at the economic return on those acres. We've also seen an increase in the number of offers with land coming out of CRP."
The U.S. Department of Agriculture aims to have the WRP enrolled to its fully authorized acres by 2012. Current enrollment in the program stands at approximately 2.2 million acres--reaching the final goal will mean having more than 3 million acres protected and restored. Thompson said, "WRP is not just for large farmers or large tracts of land. WRP works on any kind of operation." The majority of the acres enrolled in WRP in South Dakota are found in the prairie pothole region of the eastern half of the state; however, with multiple eligibility categories, landowners across the state are encouraged to talk to their local NRCS office.
The WRP is beneficial to both the landowner and the environment. In the WRP landowners maintain ownership of the land--they have the right to hunt, fish, and pursue other appropriate recreational uses, and the wetlands provide critical habitat for migratory waterfowl throughout their breeding, nesting, and brood rearing cycles, as well as many other species. Resident species such as deer and pheasants utilize wetlands for winter cover.
According to Thompson, easement payments are based on an established rate and the FY2010 easement payments on average are the highest per acre to date. Rates will be available in the near future, please call your local NRCS office.
For more information about WRP in South Dakota, please contact your local NRCS office or Sara Thompson at 605-352-1281. For more information about technical assistance and conservation programs go to www.sd.nrcs.usda.gov.