Wetlands Program Preserves 2 Million Acres

Landowners have enrolled more than 2 million acres in the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP), a significant contribution toward increasing the nation's wetlands, according to a recent statement by Mark Rey, agriculture undersecretary of Natural Resources and Environment.

"We have gained wetland acreage, thanks to the stewardship ethic of the nation's farmers and ranchers," Rey said. "Because of this achievement, USDA was able to help President Bush exceed his goal of improving, restoring, and protecting at least 3 million acres of wetlands in less than five years."

There is WRP-enrolled acreage in each state. New enrollments in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Vermont contributed to this conservation achievement of having more than 2 million acres. A listing for each state is available at http://www.nrcs.usda.gov.

WRP, administered by USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service, was reauthorized in the 2008 Farm Bill. It provides technical and financial assistance to eligible landowners to address wetland, wildlife habitat, soil, water, and related natural resource concerns on private agricultural land. The program provides financial incentives to protect, restore, and enhance wetlands on their property. This voluntary program strives to achieve the greatest wetland functions and values and optimum wildlife habitat on every enrolled acre.

The enrollment options for landowners are permanent easements, 30-year easements, and a restoration cost-share agreement, as well as 30-year contracts on acreage owned by Indian Tribes.

Wetlands supply life-sustaining habitat for hundreds of species, including many of the nation's endangered and threatened species. They provide a protective buffer for towns and cities against floods and storm surges by absorbing excess water. They also buffer coastal areas from erosion. Often called "nature's sponges," wetlands help protect water quality by filtering out pollutants and offer aesthetic and recreational opportunities.

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