Easement program targets flood reduction, habitats

Published 11:29 am Monday, June 30, 2008

Two million dollars for conservation and flood reduction, plus a new incentive for restoring previously drained wetlands, add up to “Christmas in July” for area conservationists.

On June 26, the State and Federal conservation agencies rolled out Phase I of a Conservation Easement practice the Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR) is saying will be “the premier wetland restoration program in the country.”

“The program uses Reinvest In Minnesota (RIM) and Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) dollars to target high priority areas for habitat restoration and flood reduction. The legislature has appropriated $2 million toward projects in the Cedar River Basin, which makes up all of the Cedar River and Turtle Creek Watersheds,” said Justin Hanson, technician for the Mower County Soil and Water Conservation District.

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RIM/WRP is a volunteer easement program that allows landowners to set aside sensitive ground for permanent wildlife habitat, flood reduction and water quality benefits.

According to Hanson, eligible cooperators retain ownership of the land and access rights.

“This program also has more flexibility than the previous CREP program and may be very attractive to landowners already enrolled in CRP practices,” he said.

The payment rates will make the difference for a successful program, according to Hanson.

The average payment rate will be $4,500 per acre.

“This is an excellent opportunity to use state and federal dollars to chip away at the flooding issues in Mower and Freeborn counties,” he said.

Taking advantage of this funding provides volunteer flood control measures, with fair compensation, he indicated.

The Phase I sign-up ends July 18. Interested landowners should get in soon for sign-ups, Hanson reminded.

The state-federal government agency has both sides happy.

“Record commodity prices and land values might seem to make wetland restorations a tough sell for landowners, but many landowners have already expressed interest in restoring previously drained wetlands, and the competitive payment rates that are available through this partnership make this an attractive option for Minnesota farmers,” said John Jaschke, BWSR executive director.

Contact Hanson, Mike Muzzy and Matt Taylor at the USDA Service Center for more information 434-2603.