Picture in your mind a map of the United States. Then picture the state of New Jersey.
The land mass of New Jersey, roughly 5 million acres, is equal to the amount of land now enrolled nationally in the U.S. Department of Agriculture's conservation easements, which permanently limit use of the land in order to protect its conservation values.
Th 5-million-acre milestone, which consists of land in wetland, grassland and prime farmland, was reached after USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service, or NRCS, enrolled 110,000 acres since October.
“USDA is committed to partnering with our nation’s farmers, ranchers, and private landowners to conserve our nation’s natural resources for future generations and deliver conservation and recreational benefits to rural America,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a written statement.
For 28 years, NRCS has offered conservation easements through the Farm Bill, the centerpiece of U.S. food and agricultural policy, via a number of programs. The list includes the the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program "which helps landowners, land trusts, and other entities protect, restore, and enhance wetlands, grasslands, and working farms and ranches through conservation easements. These programs benefit participants and the American public by creating cleaner air, water, and open spaces." according to USDA.
According to USDA:
Farmers, ranchers and private foresters interested in enrolling farmland, grasslands, or wetlands in a conservation easement may submit proposals to the NRCS state office to acquire conservation easements on eligible land. To enroll land through wetland reserve easements, landowners should contact their local USDA Service Center.
To learn more about the various conservation program., check out USDA's Conservation at Work video series.