ACEP is USDA’s premier conservation easement program, helping
landowners protect working agricultural lands and wetlands. The
interim rule – now available on the Federal Register – will be
in effect until the final rule is published. These activities
will make changes to the program prescribed by the 2018 Farm
“Through easements, agricultural landowners are protecting
agricultural lands from development, restoring grazing lands and
returning wetlands to their natural conditions,” said Ivan
Dozier, NRCS State Conservationist in Illinois. “The new changes
to ACEP under the 2018 Farm Bill make it stronger and more
effective and will result in even better protection of our
nation’s farmlands, grasslands and wetlands.”
NRCS is investing more than $300 million in conservation
easements for fiscal 2020. NRCS state offices will announce
signup periods for ACEP in the coming weeks.
Changes to ACEP for agricultural land easements include:
Authorizing assistance to partners who pursue “Buy-Protect-Sell”
Requiring a conservation plan for highly erodible land that will
be protected by an agricultural land easement.
Increasing flexibility for partners to meet cost-share matching
Changes to ACEP for wetland reserve easements
Identifying water quality as a program purpose for enrollment of
wetland reserve easements.
Expanding wetland types eligible for restoration and management
under wetland reserve easements.
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“Conservation easements have a tremendous footprint
in the U.S. with nearly 5 million acres already enrolled. That’s
58,000 square miles,” NRCS Chief Matthew Lohr said. “This is a great
testament to NRCS’s and landowner’s commitment to conservation.”
NRCS invites comments on this interim rule through March 6 on the
Federal Register. Electronic comments must be submitted through
regulations.gov under Docket ID NRCS-2019-0006. All written comments
received will be publicly available on regulations.gov, too. NRCS
will evaluate public comments to determine whether additional
changes are needed. The agency plans on publishing a final rule
following public comment review.
Applying for ACEP
ACEP aids landowners and eligible entities with conserving,
restoring and protecting wetlands, productive agricultural lands and
grasslands. NRCS accepts ACEP applications year-round, but
applications are ranked and funded by enrollment periods that are
For more information on how to sign up for ACEP, visit your state
website at nrcs.usda.gov or contact your local NRCS field office.
Public Affairs Officer
USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service]