Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Wetlands Reserve Program

Missouri landowners interested in applying for the Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) have until November 30 to sign up, according to the USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).

WRP is the federal government's largest wetlands restoration program. It provides technical and financial assistance to private landowners and Indian Tribes to restore, protect and enhance wetlands that have been degraded or converted for agricultural uses. Through WRP, Missouri NRCS has purchased 954 easements in 19 years. In exchange for the easements, landowners receive cash payments for converting marginal-use land to shallow wetland acres and maintaining them.

Wetlands support diverse populations of fish, wildlife and plants. They protect water quality by filtering out pollutants and provide natural flood control by absorbing or temporarily storing excess water. Wetlands also offer aesthetic and recreational opportunities.

NRCS enrolled 6,365 acres in WRP in Fiscal Year 2011, says State Conservationist J.R. Flores. He says that since WRP began in 1992, Missouri has restored 136,890 acres through WRP.

Missouri's success with WRP is a major contributor to offsetting wetland losses caused by development and other land-use conversions. The 2007 National Resources Inventory (NRI) showed that Missouri had 948,600 acres of wetlands. Though the wetland acreage is increasing, it represents only about 20 percent of the state's original 4.8 million acres of wetlands.

"We're never going to get back to 4.8 million acres, but our goal is to increase the number of easements enrolled in WRP and significantly increase wetlands acreage in Missouri," Flores says.

For more information about WRP and other NRCS programs, contact the NRCS office serving your county. Look in the phone book under "U.S. Government, Department of Agriculture," or access our website to contact your local county NRCS Office for more information.

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