DAVIS, Calif., March 5, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Private landowners interested in enhancing, restoring or protecting their wetlands or grasslands may want to get their applications in soon. The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in California has set April 5, 2013, as the deadline for considering projects for 2013 Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) and Grassland Reserve Program (GRP) funding.
WRP is a voluntary program that provides farmers, ranchers and other private landowners compensation for land placed in wetland conservation easements, and cost-share funding for restoring degraded wetlands. WRP includes permanent easements that pay 100 percent of the easement value and restoration costs, and 30-year easements that pay up to 75 percent of the easement value and restoration costs. WRP also offers a 10-year restoration-only option without an easement.
This year, WRP will again include the Grazing Reserve Pilot Program that allows livestock grazing on enrolled land as part of a wetlands conservation and grazing management plan. California NRCS is offering the pilot program in three geographic areas: Coastal Pastures & Wetlands of the North Coast, California Vernal Pools, and Intermountain Wetlands of Northeastern California.
GRP is a similar but separate voluntary easement program that helps ranchers protect the agricultural viability of grazing landscapes and their associated environmental benefits. GRP participants implement grazing plans that benefit natural resources such as wildlife habitat, water quality, forage productivity, and soil quality which collectively influence watershed health. GRP targets grasslands of high biological value that are vulnerable to conversion to urban uses, cropland, or other non-grazing uses and conserves them through perpetual easements, or 10, 15, or 20-year rental agreements.
"These programs provide landowners an opportunity to protect ranch lands and restore wetlands on frequently flooded, marginal land that is difficult to farm," said Carlos Suarez, NRCS State Conservationist in California. "They provide a means to keep working land in production, preserve open space, and provide great benefit to our state's natural resources and wildlife."
While NRCS accepts WRP and GRP applications throughout the year, the agency plans to make 2013 ranking decisions from the pool of applications received by April 5.
As with all NRCS easements, the landowner retains the title to the land, and the right to control access and recreational use. The land remains on the tax rolls.
For more information on WRP and GRP, landowners can contact their local NRCS Service Center or visit www.ca.nrcs.usda.gov/programs.
Since its inception in 1935, NRCS has worked in partnership with private landowners and a variety of local, state and federal conservation partners to deliver conservation based on specific, local needs.
SOURCE USDA - Natural Resources Conservation Service