Deadline March 1; federal program offers various ways
to help landowners preserve wetlands
SALINA -- Harold L. Klaege, state conservationist for the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Kansas, has announced a signup deadline of March 1, 2007, for the Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP). The WRP is a voluntary program offering landowners the opportunity to protect, restore, and enhance wetlands on their property. The program is continuous, but applications need to be received by the cutoff date to be considered for the fiscal year 2007 funding allocation of $1.2 million.

Currently, Kansas landowners have enrolled 148 sites -- 14,178 acres in easements or restoration agreements. NRCS provides technical and financial support to help landowners with their wetland restoration efforts. Offering landowners an opportunity to establish long-term conservation and wildlife practices and protection, the NRCS’s goal is to achieve the greatest wetland functions and optimum wildlife habitat on every acre enrolled in the program.

Landowners who choose to participate in WRP may sell a conservation easement or enter into a cost-share restoration agreement with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to restore and protect wetlands. The landowner voluntarily limits future use of the land yet retains private ownership. The landowner and NRCS develop a plan for the restoration and maintenance of the wetland.

The program offers landowners three options: permanent easements, 30-year easements, and restoration cost-share agreements with a minimum 10-year duration.

Other agencies and private conservation organizations may provide additional assistance for easement payment and wetland restoration costs as a way to reduce the landowner's share of the costs.

After an agreement has been reached, the landowner continues to control access to the land -- and may lease the land for hunting, fishing, and other undeveloped recreational activities. At any time, a landowner may request that additional activities be evaluated to determine if they are compatible uses for the site. This request may include such items as permission to cut hay, graze livestock, or harvest wood products. Compatible uses are allowed if they are fully consistent with the protection and enhancement of the wetland.

Information about WRP is available online at www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/wrp/ or at local NRCS offices or conservation district staff. Check the website for key points about WRP, testimonials from landowners who have land enrolled in the Kansas WRP, and other information.