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USDA Increases Funding to Safeguard, Restore Wetland Ecosystems
Indiana Ag Connection - 08/05/2022

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is investing up to $20 million nationwide to help conservation partners protect and restore critical wetlands through the Wetland Reserve Enhancement Partnership (WREP). USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is prioritizing proposals that support efforts to mitigate climate change by restoring wetlands while also prioritizing assistance to underserved communities. Proposals from partners are due Sept. 23.

"Restoring and protecting wetlands can improve water quality, enhance wildlife habitat and help address climate change. Partnerships are absolutely essential to this work," said Jerry Raynor, NRCS state conservationist in Indiana. "Our partners can help connect us with historically underserved communities here in Indiana and across the country, and these projects can also expand equity in conservation opportunities."

Through WREP projects, eligible conservation partners protect, restore and enhance high-priority wetlands on agricultural lands. WREP enables effective integration of wetland restoration on working agricultural landscapes, providing meaningful benefits to farmers who enroll in the program and to the communities where the wetlands exist.

The most sought-after lands for the WREP program are referred to as "marginal," meaning they do not produce to their full capacity due to repeat flooding or standing water. Removing marginal lands from production can provide economic benefits for agricultural landowners while also restoring the wetlands to accomplish their full functions and values.

Partners should target outreach and enrollment priorities supported by NRCS, including places impacted by natural disasters. WREP will continue to prioritize enrollment of historically underserved landowners in its ranking of proposals. This includes proposals that:

- Target places with historically underserved producers.

- Focus outreach to historically underserved producers.

- Provide assistance with application materials and helping resolve heirs' property and title issues.

Eligible partners include Tribes, state and local governments, and non-government organizations. Partners are required to contribute a financial or technical assistance fund match. Partners interested in applying should contact Assistant State Conservationist for Partnerships Jill Reinhart at jill.reinhart@usda.gov for more information. Proposals are due by Sept. 23.

Partners looking to learn more about opportunities for WREP funding for fiscal year 2023 are encouraged to attend the virtual WREP workshop on Aug. 17 at 1 p.m. Eastern. Contact Lisa McCauley at lisa.mccauley@usda.gov for the login information. The webinar will be recorded and available for any partners unable to attend.

WREP is part of the?Agricultural Conservation Easement Program?(ACEP), which is a Farm Bill conservation program. Most recently, Indiana NRCS funded the Lower Wabash River and White River Oxbow project in Indiana and Illinois, led by The Nature Conservancy. This project built on existing efforts of local partnerships between NRCS, The Nature Conservancy and the Conservation Law Center to enroll historically underserved landowners in the historic Lyle's Station area, which was settled in the early 1800's and is one of the last remaining Black American settlements in the state. The project focuses on reducing nutrient export from the Wabash River and improving important habitat around priority oxbow lakes for monarch butterflies, migratory birds and large river fish species.


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