The United States Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service helps provide long-term protection of West Virginia farmlands and wetlands through the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program. Applications that meet eligibility and ranking criteria for Farm Bill ACEP received prior to Nov. 13 will be considered for Farm Bill ACEP funding in Fiscal Year 2024.
In addition, applications that meet program eligibility and national-level priorities and priority areas for Inflation Reduction Act ACEP received prior to Nov. 13 will be considered for IRA ACEP funding in Fiscal Year 2024. The IRA statute prioritizes eligible land that will most reduce, capture, avoid, or sequester carbon dioxide, methane, or nitrous oxide emissions.
NRCS offers two types of easements through Farm Bill and IRA ACEP: Agricultural Land Easements and Wetland Reserve Easements.
Agricultural Land Easements protect working agricultural lands. The purpose of ALE is to safeguard the nation’s food supply by protecting the agricultural use and future viability, and related conservation values, of eligible land by limiting nonagricultural uses of that land that negatively affect the agricultural uses and conservation values; and protect grazing uses and related conservation values by restoring or conserving eligible land. Landowners interested in ALE must work with an eligible entity and do not submit applications for ALE directly to NRCS. State and local governments and non-governmental organizations that have farmland protection programs are potential eligible entities that may apply to NRCS for financial assistance to purchase conservation easements on eligible land.
Wetland Reserve Easements allow landowners to successfully protect, restore, and enhance wetlands on their lands. WRE benefits also include reducing impacts from flooding, recharge of groundwater, wildlife habitat, and additional outdoor recreational and educational opportunities. NRCS provides technical and financial assistance directly to private and tribal landowners through the purchase of easements. Eligible landowners with eligible land can choose to enroll in a permanent or 30-year option. To apply for a wetland easement through ACEP-WRE, please visit a local NRCS Service Center.
For more information about Farm Bill ACEP, please visit the NRCS West Virginia website at https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/conservation-basics/conservation-by-state/west-virginia/west-virginia-conservation-programs-0.
For more information about IRA ACEP, please visit the NRCS National website at: https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs-initiatives/acep-agricultural-conservation-easement-program.
For questions related to Farm Bill and IRA ACEP, contact Laura Smith, assistant state Conservationist for programs, NRCS, at Laura.Smith2@usda.gov or 304-284-7543.