The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service has announced that up to $30 million is available nationwide in technical and financial assistance through the Wetlands Reserve Enhancement Partnership to help conservation partners protect and restore critical wetlands on agricultural lands in the Caribbean Area. Restored wetlands help improve water quality downstream, enhance wildlife habitat, reduce impacts from flooding and provide recreational benefits.
“This partnership enhances the locally driven process to better address critical wetland functions that progress beyond localities,” said Luis Cruz-Arroyo, NRCS Caribbean Area director. “WREP works with other NRCS landscape-level conservation efforts to deliver conservation assistance to producers in targeted areas that yield the most impacts for accelerated benefits. Leveraging partnerships helps us continue the important work with producers to recover the health of wetland ecosystems on working lands.”
Eligible conservation partners in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands (such as Native American tribes, state and local governments and non-governmental organizations) will work through WREP to voluntarily execute high priority wetland protection, restoration and enhancement activities on eligible agriculture lands.
WREP enables effective 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.
NRCS will review partners’ project proposals and evaluate priority resource concerns, objectives, costs and expected outcomes for each project and rank proposals based on the criteria set forth in the ranking worksheet on the WREP webpage.
Proposals should be emailed to NRCS Caribbean State Resource Conservationist, Mario Rodríguez, by Nov. 30.
Funding will be provided through the Wetland Reserve Enhancement Partnership, which is part of the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program, a Farm Bill conservation program. Through WREP, states, local units of governments, non-governmental organizations and American Indian tribes collaborate with NRCS through cooperative and partnership agreements.
These partners work with tribal and private landowners who voluntarily enroll eligible land into easements to protect, restore and enhance wetlands on their properties. WREP partners are required to contribute a financial or technical assistance fund match.
Wetland reserve easements enable landowners to successfully reduce impacts from flooding, recharge groundwater, enhance and protect wildlife habitat, and provide outdoor recreational and educational opportunities. Healthy wetlands, including those protected and restored through WREP, contribute to USDA’s Agriculture Innovation Agenda of reducing the environmental footprint of U.S. agriculture in half by 2050. Earlier this year, Secretary Perdue announced the department-wide initiative to align resources, programs and research to position American agriculture to better meet future global demands.
Partners benefit from WREP by targeting outreach and enrollment priorities supported by NRCS, including places impacted by natural disasters. Easements enable landowners to adopt a variety of conservation practices that improve the function and condition of wetlands.
Visit the national WREP webpage for more information on this program opportunity.