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USDA invests in new project to restore wetlands

USDA invests in new project to restore wetlands

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LINCOLN — The U.S. Department of Agriculture is investing $28 million in Wetland Reserve Enhancement Partnership projects. These projects enable conservation partners and producers to work together to return critical wetland functions to agricultural landscapes. Private landowners and Indian Tribes can apply to participate in the Nebraska Playa Wetlands project by April 30 at their local Natural Resources Conservation Service office.

The Nebraska Playa Wetlands project seeks to enroll 450 acres of playa wetlands located in the Rainwater Basin, in south central Nebraska south of the Platte River, and the Central Table Playa, in the Arnold region, to protect, restore and manage wetland ecosystems and associated uplands.

“The flexibility associated with this project allows producers to restore wetlands embedded in pivot irrigated fields without negatively impacting their adjacent cropland,” said Rainwater Basin Joint Venture Coordinator Andy Bishop. “Prescribed grazing of these sites promotes desired habitat conditions and allows producers an alternative to improve net-farm income on flood-prone acres. Restoration of these wetlands and uplands will provide significant aquifer recharge and habitat for a variety of plants and animals that depend on thriving wetlands and grasslands, creating a win-win situation for producers, migratory birds, resident wildlife and the citizens of rural communities.”

This project provides landowners a financial incentive to restore, protect and enhance wetlands located in the Rainwater Basin and Central Table Playa area in exchange for placing marginal land into a conservation easement. The WREP option provides the flexibility to pass a pivot over the enrolled acres to maintain optimal irrigation of the surrounding cropland.

“Wetlands have tremendous benefits, from cleaner water, to flood prevention, to enhancing wildlife habitat, to sequestering carbon,” said Jeff Vander Wilt, acting Nebraska state conservationist. “The Wetland Reserve Enhancement Partnership is a tool that’s helping Nebraska partners cover more ground with producers in expanding the footprint of healthy wetlands across our country.”

In total, NRCS has supported landowners in protecting more than 2.85 million acres through wetland easement programs nationwide. In Nebraska, through the Wetland Reserve Enhancement Partnership, there are over 600 closed easements containing over 80,000 wetland acres.

Through the Wetland Reserve Enhancement Partnership NRCS enters into agreements with eligible partners to target and leverage resources to address high priority wetland protection, restoration and enhancement activities and improve wildlife habitat on eligible lands. WREP enables NRCS to collaborate with partners on high-priority wetland restoration projects to return critical wetland functions and improve wildlife habitat.

Through selected WREP projects, partners voluntarily work with agricultural producers to execute targeted wetland protection, restoration and enhancement activities on eligible agriculture lands. WREP enables integration of wetland restoration on working agricultural landscapes, providing meaningful benefits to farmers and ranchers who enroll in the program and to the communities where the wetlands exist.

If you are interested in helping restore the quality and abundance of our nation’s wetlands, check with your local USDA Service Center for wetland restoration project opportunities. NRCS will determine if the acres you offer are eligible for the program.

Learn more about WREP program opportunities by visiting the WREP webpage.

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