Fund­ing avail­able to pro­tect wet­lands, fam­ily farms

Record Observer - - NEWS -

AN­NAPO­LIS — Farm­ers look­ing for funds to pro­tect their agri­cul­tural as­sets and pro­vide for the wildlife habi­tat sur­round­ing them may find re­lief in fund­ing avail­able from the USDA’s Nat­u­ral Re­sources Conser va­tion Ser vice — now ac­cept­ing ap­pli­ca­tions for the Agri­cul­tural Con­ser­va­tion Ease­ments Pro­gram.

State and lo­cal gov­ern­ments, non-govern­men­tal or­ga­ni­za­tions and pri­vate landown­ers who are in­ter­ested in pro­tect­ing and en­hanc­ing land through an agri­cul­tural or wet­land ease­ment are en­cour­aged to con­tact their lo­cal NRCS of­fice to find out how to ap­ply.

In Mary­land, $1.8 mil­lion is avail­able for wet­land ease­ments and restora­tion. ACEP ap­pli­ca­tions may be sub­mit­ted at any time to NRCS; how­ever, ap­pli­ca­tions for the cur­rent fund­ing round must be sub­mit­ted on or be­fore Jan. 17. Ap­pli­ca­tions are avail­able at lo­cal USDA Ser­vice Cen­ters and at

“Con­ser­va­tion ease­ments help farm­ers pro­tect valu­able agri­cul­tural lands from de­vel­op­ment or pro­tect and re­store pre­vi­ously drained wet­lands to their nat­u­ral con­di­tions,” NRCS Mary­land ease­ment pro­gram man­ager M. Tif­fany Davis said. “These ease­ments are im­prov­ing wildlife habi­tat and wa­ter qual­ity in the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay Wa­ter­shed.”

An ad­di­tional $131,000 is avail­able for pro­tect­ing and restor­ing habi­tat for bog tur­tles, which is fed­er­ally listed as Threat­ened un­der the En­dan­gered Species Act. Bog tur­tles de­pend upon a habi­tat mo­saic of open, sunny, spring fed wet­lands and scat­tered dry ar­eas, and pri­vate landown­ers con­trol the ma­jor­ity of bog tur­tle habi­tat re­main­ing in the north­east.

Last year, NRCS in­vested more than $2.5 mil­lion in Mar yland through ACEP. The nine projects se­lected pro­tect 360 acres of prime farm­land and re­store more than 300 acres of sen­si­tive wet­lands across the state.

Agri­cul­tural ease­ments pre­vent pro­duc­tive work­ing lands from be­ing con­verted to nona­gri­cul­tural uses and max­i­mize pro­tec­tion of land de­voted to food pro­duc­tion. Cro­p­land, range­land, grass­land, pas­ture­land and non­in­dus­trial pri­vate forest­land are el­i­gi­ble.

Wet­land re­serve ease­ments re­store and en­hance wet­lands and im­prove habi­tat. El­i­gi­ble lands in­clude farmed or con­verted wet­lands that can be suc­cess­fully and cost-ef­fec­tively re­stored.

ACEP com­bines NRCS’ for­mer Farm and Ranch Lands Pro­tec­tion, Grass­land Re­serve and Wet­lands Re­serve pro­grams.

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