USDA Celebrates 5 Million Acres Enrolled in Safety
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and private landowners have teamed up to protect more than 5 million acres of wetlands, grasslands, and prime farmland – an area the size of New Jersey. Since October, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has added 110,000 acres to new protection measures, bringing USDA to this important conservation milestone.
“USDA is committed to working with our land’s farmers, ranchers and private landowners to preserve our land’s natural resources for future generations and to provide protective and recreational benefits for rural America,” said Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. “We celebrate their efforts to help us protect sensitive areas, create jobs, increase access to nature and help combat climate change. We look forward to building on these partnerships. “
NRCS has been providing conservation under the Farm Bill for 28 years through programs such as the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP), which helps landowners, land trusts, and others protect, restore, and protect wetlands, grasslands, and working farms and ranches to be improved through conservation measures. These programs benefit attendees and the American public by creating cleaner air, cleaner water, and cleaner spaces.
Wetlands – covering over 2.8 million acres across the country – improve water quality by filtering sediments and chemicals, reducing flooding, recharging groundwater, protecting biodiversity, and providing opportunities for educational, scientific, and undeveloped recreational activities.
Wetlands are also vital to wildlife and are credited for restoring the Louisiana black bear in 2019 and the Oregon chub in 2015. The humid meadows of mugwort are also an oasis for wildlife such as sage grouse.
Agricultural land protection measures protect the long-term viability of the country’s food supply by preventing the conversion of productive working areas into non-agricultural uses. These facilitations were vital to protecting rangelands and homesteads from urban encroachment and ensuring that the most productive land remains workable.
Agricultural land, including grassland, covers more than 1.9 million acres.
Carbon sequestration and facilitation
Easements can also be used to protect floodplains and forests, and provide public benefits, including carbon sequestration, water quality, heritage protection, wildlife habitat, and protection of open spaces. Relief has helped restore the unique but rare long-leaved pine forests to the southeast and protect animals such as the great sage grouse.
Working with private landowners to conserve and restore wetlands, grasslands, forests, and farmland is an integral part of USDA’s efforts to build resilience and reduce the effects of climate change across the country. Relief measures protect sensitive areas from development over time, and landowners can work with NRCS to implement voluntary climate-friendly management practices that maximize the amount of carbon captured from the atmosphere and stored in soils or plant biomass in those landscapes.
Under the Biden-Harris administration, the USDA is making nationwide efforts to address the climate crisis and to conserve and protect our country’s land, biodiversity, and natural resources, including soil, air, and water. Through conservation practices and partnerships, USDA aims to fuel economic growth and create new streams of income for farmers, ranchers, producers and private foresters. To successfully address these challenges, the USDA must work with stakeholders including state, local, and tribal governments to take a coordinated approach.
Sign in to Easements
Farmers, ranchers, and private foresters wishing to include farmland, grasslands, or wetlands in a protection zone can submit proposals to the NRCS State Office to purchase protection on eligible land. To file land through wetland reserves, landowners should contact their local USDA service center.
USDA offers a variety of conservation programs to help plan and implement conservation practices on farms, ranches, or forests. For more information on how you can put nature conservation into practice, see our “Conservation at Work” video series.
While the USDA offices are closed to visitors due to the pandemic, the service center staff continues to work with farm producers via phone, email and other digital tools. To do business, please contact your local USDA Service Center. For more information on the USDA’s response and facilitation for producers, please visit Farmers.gov/coronavirus.