AR: NRCS announces funding for wetlands conservation assistance

LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas landowners have until Jan. 27, 2012, to
sign up for 2012 funding consideration through the Wetlands Reserve
Program. Funded through the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of
2008, WRP is a voluntary program that helps landowners address
wetland and wildlife natural resource concerns on private

WRP participants limit their future use of the land, but retain
private ownership, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service
State Conservationist Mike Sullivan says. “Arkansas is second in
the nation in WRP wetland restoration with more than 200,000 acres
restored,” Sullivan said. “We are particularly interested in
restoring bottomland hardwoods and hydrology in the Lower
Mississippi River Valley, the majority of which lies in our state,
and in the Red River and Arkansas River valleys.”

Wetlands are areas saturated by water all or most of a year. Often
called “nature’s kidneys,” wetlands naturally filter contaminants
out of water. Wetlands also recharge groundwater, prevent flooding
and soil erosion, and slow the flow of water that runs across the
surface of the land.

WRP offers permanent easements that pay 100 percent of the value of
an easement and up to 100 percent of easement restoration costs,
and 30-year easements that pay up to 75 percent of the value of an
easement and up to 75 percent of easement restoration costs. WRP
also offers restoration cost-share agreements to restore wetland
functions and values without placing an easement on enrolled acres;
NRCS pays up to 75 percent of restoration costs.

WRP is a great option for flood prone cropland and can enroll
cropland with existing forested land in the contract, according to
David Long, the private lands coordinator for the Arkansas Game and
Fish Commission. “Seems the Arkansas Delta is regularly receiving
flooding like we have seen the last couple of weeks. Whether it’s
fall, winter, spring or summer, many cropland acres are being
flooded more often than historically, almost on a yearly basis in
some areas of the state,” Long explained.

Many farmers have been losing crops yearly from the flood events.
As a result, there are good areas for farm producers and landowners
to consider enrolling in WRP, Long notes. “What financially is in
it for the landowner? Currently, for a permanent easement, NRCS is
paying $1,350 per acre for cropland, certain pasturelands and
commercial fish ponds and $800 per acre for existing woodlands and
other lands in most of the state,” he said.

Lands in the Arkansas River Valley (including Franklin, Perry,
Yell, Conway, Johnson, Logan, Sebastian, Pope, Faulkner and
Crawford Counties), pay $1,500 per acre for croplands, pastureland
and commercial fish ponds. The woodland acre payment is the same as
the rest of the state. Woodland acres alone cannot be enrolled in
WRP, they have to be part of land that needs wetland restoration
and an additional 50% of forested acres can be enrolled. The
woodlands serve as a buffer to adjacent lands restored to wetlands
under the program, Long says.

The best feature of the WRP program is that the NRCS ensures the
wetland restoration is completed and pays 100% of the restoration.
“Landowners do not have to get bogged down trying to set up a tree
planter, locating tree seedlings or installing levees and water
control structures. NRCS coordinates all of the restoration, which
is a big plus for landowners,” Long said.

Wetland restoration under WRP creates premium habitat for
waterfowl, wading birds, along with deer, turkey, rabbits and a
host of other wildlife, Long explained. “Even bobwhite quail can
benefit from this restoration work. Plus, for the landowner
interested in wildlife and hunting, the program improves the
property for excellent wildlife watching and hunting of all types,
Long says. “The landowner may lease these lands out for hunting, if
they have an interest to receive additional income. Future timber
may be selectively harvested under a forest management plan
approved by NRCS. WRP is a win-win for everyone but most
importantly, for the many wildlife species that are in decline as a
result of the limited wetland habitat across the Delta,” he

For additional information about WRP, visit To sign up for the
programs, visit your local USDA Natural Resources Conservation
Service field service center.

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