LITTLE ROCK - (AGFC) USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service State Conservationist Mike Sullivan says landowners have until Jan. 28 to sign up for 2011 funding consideration through the Wetlands Reserve Program.
The WRP is the premier wetland restoration program on private lands, particularly in the Southern U.S, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, according to Luke Naylor, AGFC waterfowl biologist.
"The program has helped restore wetland function and values to thousands of acres throughout the history of the program," Naylor said. "WRP lands continue to provide highly valuable habitat to migrating and wintering waterfowl and other wetland-dependent wildlife across Arkansas."
AGFC Agricultural Liaison David Long says additional funding normally comes to Arkansas several times throughout the year, so landowners may apply any time of the year.
"However, it's never too early to start the process by making application as soon as the landowner is ready to get the wheels turning in the WRP application process," Long said. "The ranking and all of the processing required to execute an easement takes several months, so the sooner a landowner makes application, the better."
"Arkansas is second in the nation in WRP wetland restoration with more than 200,000 acres restored," Sullivan said. "We are particularly interested in restoring bottomland hardwoods and hydrology in the Lower Mississippi River Valley, the majority of which lies in our state, and in the Red River and Arkansas River valleys."
Wetlands are areas saturated by water all or most of a year. Often called "nature's kidneys," wetlands naturally filter contaminants out of water. Wetlands also recharge groundwater, prevent flooding and soil erosion, and slow the flow of water that runs across the surface of the land.
Funded through the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 (Farm Bill) WRP is a voluntary program that helps landowners address wetland and wildlife natural resource concerns on private lands. WRP participants limit their future use of the land, but retain private ownership.
The WRP offers permanent easements that pay 100 percent of the value of an easement and up to 100 percent of easement restoration costs, and 30-year easements that pay up to 75 percent of the value of an easement and up to 75 percent of easement restoration costs. The WRP also offers restoration cost-share agreements to restore wetland functions and values without placing an easement on enrolled acres; NRCS pays up to 75 percent of restoration costs.
For additional information about WRP, visit www.ar.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/wrp.html. To sign up for the programs, visit your local USDA NRCS field service center.