LITTLE ROCK (AGFC) – Arkansas landowners have until Jan. 27, 2012, to sign up
for 2012 funding consideration through the Wetlands Reserve Program.
Funded through the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008, 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, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service State
Conservationist Mike Sullivan says. "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
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
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. 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.
WRP is a great option for flood prone cropland and can enroll cropland
with existing forested land in the contract, according to David Long,
the private lands coordinator for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.
"Seems the Arkansas Delta is regularly receiving flooding like we have
seen the last couple of weeks. Whether it's fall, winter, spring or
summer, many cropland acres are being flooded more often than
historically, almost on a yearly basis in some areas of the state," Long
Many farmers have been losing crops yearly from the flood events. As a
result, there are good areas for farm producers and landowners to
consider enrolling in WRP, Long notes. "What financially is in it for
the landowner? Currently, for a permanent easement, NRCS is paying
$1,350 per acre for cropland, certain pasturelands and commercial fish
ponds and $800 per acre for existing woodlands and other lands in most
of the state," he said.
Lands in the Arkansas River Valley (including Franklin, Perry, Yell,
Conway, Johnson, Logan, Sebastian, Pope, Faulkner and Crawford
Counties), pay $1,500 per acre for croplands, pastureland and commercial
fish ponds. The woodland acre payment is the same as the rest of the
state. Woodland acres alone cannot be enrolled in WRP, they have to be
part of land that needs wetland restoration and an additional 50% of
forested acres can be enrolled. The woodlands serve as a buffer to
adjacent lands restored to wetlands under the program, Long says.
The best feature of the WRP program is that the NRCS ensures the
wetland restoration is completed and pays 100% of the restoration.
"Landowners do not have to get bogged down trying to set up a tree
planter, locating tree seedlings or installing levees and water control
structures. NRCS coordinates all of the restoration, which is a big plus
for landowners," Long said.
Wetland restoration under WRP creates premium habitat for waterfowl,
wading birds, along with deer, turkey, rabbits and a host of other
wildlife, Long explained. "Even bobwhite quail can benefit from this
restoration work. Plus, for the landowner interested in wildlife and
hunting, the program improves the property for excellent wildlife
watching and hunting of all types, Long says. "The landowner may lease
these lands out for hunting, if they have an interest to receive
additional income. Future timber may be selectively harvested under a
forest management plan approved by NRCS. WRP is a win-win for everyone
but most importantly, for the many wildlife species that are in decline
as a result of the limited wetland habitat across the Delta," he added.
For additional information about WRP, visit
www.ar.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/wrp.html. To sign up for the programs,
visit your local USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service field