Efforts to preserve wetlands on Mississippi farms have received a $5.1 million boost from the U.S. States Department of Agriculture as part of awards totaling $30 million to six states.
Funded under the Wetland Reserve Enhancement Partnership authorized in the 2014 Farm Bill, the allocations are protecting, restoring and enhancing wetlands on private and tribal agricultural lands,
The Wetland Reserve Enhancement Partnership is administered by the Natural Resources Conservation Service and allows states, local units of governments, non-governmental organizations and American Indian tribes to form cooperative and partnership agreements. These partners work directly with private landowners interested in voluntarily enrolling their eligible agricultural land into conservation wetland easements that help to protect, restore and enhance the wetlands on their properties. The Wetland Reserve Enhancement Partnership is a special enrollment option under the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program’s Wetland Reserve Easement component created by the Farm Bill.,
Mississippi’s approximately $5.1 million award will help to increase the acres acquired and wetlands restored in the Mississippi River Basin. These additional wetland acres will provide habitat for fish and wildlife, improve water quality by filtering sediments and nutrients, reduce flooding, recharge ground water and provide outdoor recreational and educational opportunities.
In addition to Mississippi, the 2015-2016 WREP projects are in Iowa, Kentucky, Missouri, Nebraska and Tennessee.
These wetland reserve easement programs allows effective integration of wetland restoration on working landscapes by providing benefits to farmers, ranchers and rural communities where the wetlands exist.
Collectively, NRCS easement programs help productive farm, ranch and tribal lands continue in agricultural production and protect the nation’s critical wetlands and grasslands that are important to water supplies and home to diverse wildlife and plant species. Under the former Wetlands Reserve Program, private landowners, tribes and entities such as land trusts and conservation organizations have enrolled 2.7 million acres through 14,500 agreements for a total NRCS and partner investment of $4.3 billion in financial and technical assistance.
The new awards build on the more than $330 million USDA announced in fiscal year 2015 to protect and restore agricultural working lands, grasslands and wetlands.