On March 21, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced $332 million in financial and technical assistance through the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP). Private landowners, tribes, and eligible entities are encouraged to apply with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) by May 15.

The goal of the program is to provide long-term protection of United States farmland, ranchland, wetlands, and grasslands. The 2014 Farm Bill consolidated three previous conservation easement programs into ACEP to make it easier for diverse agricultural landowners to fully benefit from conservation initiatives. NRCS easement programs have been critical tools in recent years for advancing landscape-scale private-land conservation. In fiscal year 2014, NRCS used $328 million in ACEP funding to enroll an estimated 59,000 ha (145,000 ac) of farmlands, grasslands, and wetlands through 485 new easements. Learn more.

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On February 26, USDA announced that it would invest an additional $84 million through the Emergency Watershed Protection Program to help disaster-recovery efforts through more than 150 projects in 13 states. The funds support a variety of recovery projects, including clearing debris-clogged waterways, stabilizing stream banks, fixing jeopardized water-control structures, and stabilizing soils after wildfires. Additionally, on April 7, USDA announced 21 grants totaling more than $10 million that have been awarded to universities to support critical water problems in rural and agricultural watersheds across the United States.