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Easement program applications are under way

The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service in Minnesota reminds the public that applications for both Wetland Reserve Easements and Agricultural Land Easements through the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program can be made to the local NRCS office, 900 Robert St. NE, Alexandria.

Created in the 2014 Farm Bill, the program encompasses protection and restoration of wetlands through WRE and protection of farms and ranches through ALE.

Applications for funding were accepted in October and are currently being evaluated. Additional application considered for any available funding are due no later than Jan. 4.

WRE is a voluntary easement option that provides farmers, ranchers and other private landowners compensation for land placed in wetland conservation easements and cost-share funding for restoring degraded wetlands. It includes permanent easements that pay 100 percent of the easement value and restoration costs and 30-year easements that pay up to 75 percent of the easement value and restoration costs.

For 2017, Minnesota NRCS received $4,529,286 to protect and restore privately owned wetlands.

ALE funds are available to land trusts, non-governmental organizations, local and state governments, and tribes that have existing programs to purchase conservation easements that protect the agricultural use and conservation values of privately owned land. Cropland, rangeland, grassland, pastureland and nonindustrial private forestland are all eligible land uses.

Approved agricultural easements would prevent productive working lands from being converted to non-agricultural uses and maximize protection of land devoted to food production. For 2017, Minnesota NRCS received $553,280 in funding to protect farms and ranches. These funds must be matched with non-federal dollars.

Interested landowners are encouraged to contact the local NRCS service center at (320) 763-3191. Learn more at www.mn.nrcs.usda.gov/programs.

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