2014 Farm Bill Field Guide


Photo by Natural Resources Conservation Service.
Voluntary easements are important for preserving agricultural landscapes, helping producers keep their working lands working, and for protecting vulnerable wetland habitats. Download this section.

A conservation easement is a voluntary agreement that restricts development and uses of a landowner’s property in order to protect certain functions and resource values. Voluntary easements are important for preserving agricultural landscapes, helping producers keep their working lands working, and for protecting vulnerable wetland habitats.

The 2014 Farm Bill’s Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) provides financial and technical assistance to help conserve agricultural lands, grasslands, and wetlands and their related benefits. Wetland Reserve Easements (WRE) within ACEP fulfill the vision of the former Wetlands Reserve Program, which was eliminated in the 2014 Farm Bill. The new Agricultural Land Easement (ALE) program within ACEP provides public benefits, including environmental quality, historic preservation, and protection of wildlife habitat and open space. ALE is designed to carry on the legacy of the Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program and the Grasslands Reserve Program (GRP), easement programs that were used successfully to conserve key fish and wildlife habitats. The ACEP program is authorized annually between $250 and $500 million.

In addition to ACEP, the 2014 Farm Bill continues the Healthy Forests Reserve Program (HFRP) under the Forestry title of the bill. This program helps landowners restore, enhance, and protect private forestland resources through easements and financial assistance. The purpose of HFRP is to restore and protect forest ecosystems to promote the recovery of threatened and endangered species, candidate species, statelisted species or species of special concern. In the 2014 Farm Bill, the program was authorized to receive annual appropriations up to $12 million per year, and is a covered program under the Regional Conservation Partnership Program.