Private landowners in seven counties along the Mississippi River and in the Mississippi Delta can now enroll frequently flooded farmland in conservation easements because of a change in federal rules.
In passing the 2014 Farm Bill, Congress established an exemption for the wettest tracts, or those least suitable for cultivation, when figuring county acreage caps on new Wetland Reserve Easements. Because of the action, seven counties in Mississippi no longer have acreage caps. The counties at issue are Adams, Grenada, Issaquena, Jefferson, Sharkey, Warren and Wilkinson.
Acreage caps are instituted when 10 percent of a county’s cropland has been enrolled such easements.
The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), an arm of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, offers landowners the opportunity to enroll portions or all of their property in a Wetland Reserve Easement. In Mississippi, NRCS pays eligible landowners up to $2,900 per acre for a permanent easement, and it pays up to 100 percent of the cost of reforestation. In return, landowners must stop farming the property placed under easement and agree to other land use restrictions.
“Landowners struggling to farm frequently flooded or poorly drained tracts now have another opportunity in these seven counties,” said James L. Cummins, Wildlife Mississippi’s executive director. “They can apply for a government-sponsored easement and dedicate their marginal land to water quality protection, wildlife habitat and outdoor recreation. This eases economic challenges for landowners and saves the taxpayers money that would otherwise be paid for disaster assistance.”
Wildlife Mississippi works with NRCS and other partners to promote Wetland Reserve Easements among willing landowners, and it helps with reforestation. Mississippi landowners have enrolled nearly 180,000 acres, mainly in the Delta and in Mississippi River counties, in Wetland Reserve Easements. Landowners can apply for enrollment at any time.
Wildlife Mississippi has protected, restored or enhanced nearly 440,000 acres of wildlife habitat in the state since its establishment. It also encourages sustainable policies and legislation affecting fish and wildlife and their habitats; practices and promotes conservation education; and promotes nature-based outdoor recreation.
To learn more, contact your local NRCS office or go to www.ms.nrcs.usda.gov and click on the “Contact Us” link.
submitted by James Cummins, director, Wildlife Mississippi