St. Paul ’Äî Wetland restoration in the state is about to kick
into higher gear.
Later this month, the Natural Resources Conservation Service and
Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources will begin signing
landowners up for a program that combines state and federal money
to create a payment rate that’Äôs attractive to landowners.
Sign-up for the combination RIM’ÄàReserve/Wetland Reserve
Program is slated to last three weeks, but state and federal
officials hope to enroll between 4,000 and 5,000 acres in the first
phase of sign-ups
’ÄúWe feel like we’Äôre putting the two best programs together
and that we’Äôll have the premier wetland restoration program in
the nation,’Äù said Kevin Lines, who oversees the conservation
easement program for BWSR.
BWSR received $25 million in the 2008 state bonding bill for
RIM, while NRCS has $75 million for WRP. The federal dollars have
to be obligated by September ’Äì and they’Äôre allocated from the
USDA in Washington first-come, first-served ’Äì so officials are
hustling to get the details into place and begin the sign-up
Between the two programs, an estimated $15 million will be spent
during the first phase, Lines said. The timeline for the RIM money
is longer than for the current allotment of federal dollars, so it
will be used to leverage additional federal WRP money after the
’ÄúTwenty-five million is a lot of money, but when land is
selling for $5,000, $6,000, or $7,000 an acre, it’Äôs really not
that large anymore,’Äù Lines said. ’ÄúIt’Äôs really important that
we can leverage our programs together.’Äù
NRCS expects to spend about 1.4 federal dollars for every dollar
the state spends, said Tim Koehler, the NRCS assistant state
conservationist for programs in Minnesota. He expects the new Farm
Bill to be good for the WRP program.
Under the program, WRP will take a 30-year easement; the RIM
easement will be perpetual. Officials are working now to come up
with a payment rate that will make the program attractive to
landowners. NRCS currently has as much as $40 million worth of
applications for WRP on hand right now.
Ryan Heiniger, the director of conservation programs for Ducks
Unlimited in Minnesota, believes landowners will continue to be
interested in enrolling. DU’Äàhas on contract 10 people in the
state who promote and deliver WRP.
’ÄúEven though we are facing record high land and commodity
prices, and other factors, there is still a strong interest by
landowners to do good conservation,’Äù he said.
When lawmakers in the state approved RIM funding, they mandated
where some of the money be spent ’Äì including $8 million in
counties of the Red River Valley Watershed ’Äì and added a new
feature: 5 percent of the money can be spent to enhance existing
Despite high commodity and land prices, Koehler believes the
program will be successful. He’Äôs discussed it with farmers, and
believes many will want easements on land that should never have
been drained, and to continue farming productive land.