WASHINGTON, D.C. – March 14, 2018 – Members of The Wetland Conservation Policy Coalition gathered on Capitol Hill last month to celebrate 25 years of wetland restoration success through the Wetland Reserve Program (WRP) and Wetland Reserve Easement (WRE) program in the Farm Bill. Members of the coalition include Ducks Unlimited, Wildlife Mississippi, the Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies, the California Waterfowl Association, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, The Nature Conservancy and Pheasants Forever/Quail Forever to name a few.
Sen. John Boozman from Arkansas, Rep. Bennie Thompson from Mississippi and USDA/Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Acting Chief of Staff for the Associate Chief for Conservation Leslie Deavers were honored at the event for years of supporting voluntary wetlands conservation programs.
WRP, originally authorized in the 1991 Farm Bill and continued in the 2014 Farm Bill as WRE, is administered by NRCS and provides technical and financial support to help landowners protect, restore and enhance wetlands on private land.
WRE restores previously converted wetlands and provides landowners and farmers with an alternative to growing crops on marginally productive land while retaining property ownership and reducing expenditures for commodity and crop insurance programs.
“Arkansas wetlands are important to our state’s rich tradition of duck hunting,” Boozman said. “Voluntary, incentive-based policies like the Wetlands Reserve Easement program, promote the conservation and restoration of these critical resources while preserving a popular pastime and are an economic driver for our state. I look forward to continuing to work with the Wetlands Conservation Policy Coalition to support responsible conservation policies that balance the needs of landowners and wildlife as we craft the 2018 Farm Bill.”
More than 200 million acres of wetlands have been lost in the United States. Since WRP/WRE began 25 years ago, NRCS, its partners and landowners, have restored and protected nearly 3 million acres. Yet landowner and producer demand for these voluntary wetland easements exceeds available funding, with an estimated 7 percent of eligible applications being funded this year. The 2017 backlog includes more than 1,000 applications representing approximately 180,000 acres.
“The environmental and economic benefits of wetland conservation protect and support rural communities across the country,” Thompson said. “Wetlands restored by WRE protect people from flooding and help to clean water by filtering nutrients and sediment. These wetlands also support jobs through increasing outdoor recreation uses like hunting and fishing. These are benefits that cannot be ignored, and we are hopeful that our successes will continue.”