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November 1, 2010

Eligible wetlands landowners encouraged to apply for USDA program

Landowners in South Carolina with eligible acreage are encouraged to apply for technical and funding assistance available through the Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP). WRP is a voluntary program offering landowners the opportunity to create, restore, and enhance wetlands on their property. The deadline to apply for prioritized funding is Dec. 1, 2010. 

The landowner voluntarily limits future use of the land, yet retains private ownership. The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) provides technical and financial support to help landowners with their wetland restoration efforts. Examples of restoration efforts include restoring the natural hydrology of a wetland by plugging ditches or installing road crossings, installing water control structures, and eradicating non-native plants. The goal is to achieve the greatest wetland functions and values, along with optimum wildlife habitat, on every acre enrolled in the program. This program offers landowners an opportunity to establish long-term conservation and still utilize the property for recreation purposes. 

Eligibility for the easement option requires seven years of ownership prior to submitting an application, and the landowner must be able to provide evidence of control of the land, including recorded access rights. In addition, participants must also be in compliance with High Erodible Land and Wetland Conservation Provisions of the Farm Bill and also meet the Adjusted Gross Income limitations.

With landowner input, NRCS develops a plan for the restoration and maintenance of the wetland including permanent easements, 30-year easements, and restoration cost-share agreements of a minimum 10-year duration. The USDA pays 100 percent of the easement value and up to 100 percent of the restoration costs on a permanent easement. The USDA pays up to 75 percent of the easement value and up to 75 percent of the restoration costs on a 30-year easement.  The state of South Carolina pays up to $1,500 an acre for permanent easements and $1,125 per acre for 30-year easements. For both permanent and 30-year easements, USDA pays all costs associated with recording the easement in the local land records office, including recording fees, charges for abstracts, survey and appraisal fees, and title insurance.  Lastly, a Restoration Cost-Share Agreement is an agreement to restore or enhance the wetland functions and values without placing an easement on the enrolled acres. The USDA pays up to 75 percent of the restoration costs.

Wetlands are an integral component of the landscape.  They provide habitat for fish and wildlife, including threatened and endangered species; improve water quality by filtering sediments and chemicals; reduce flooding; recharge groundwater; protect biological diversity; and provide opportunities for educational, scientific, and recreational activities such as hunting and fishing.

The S.C. Department of Natural Resources works in partnership with NRCS to maximize wildlife benefits in USDA Farm Bill Programs.  For more information on WRP or other Farm Bill Programs, contact DNR/NRCS Farm Bill Biologist Krista Noel at (843) 289-1557 or contact your local NRCS office.

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