5 Million Acres in Conservation Easements

NRCS has reached an impressive new milestone: enough acres in easements to fill the state of New Jersey. The 5 million acres have been enrolled across all the conservation easement programs offered by NRCS over the past 28 years.

Farmers, ranchers, and private landowners who enroll their acres in conservation easements ensure protection of sensitive lands, support wildlife, and confront challenges like climate change.

Currently, NRCS offers conservation easements through the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP), which helps landowners​, land trusts, and other entities protect, restore, and enhance wetlands, grasslands, and working farms and ranches through conservation easements. 

5 million acres of conservation.

By the Numbers

  • 5 Million acres enrolled in conservation easements
  • 2.8 Million acres in wetland easements
  • 1.9 million acres in agricultural easements, including grassland easements
  • 110,000 acres enrolled in FY 2021
  • 28 years of conservation easements.

Wetlands

  • Filtering sediments and chemicals
  • Reducing flooding
  • Recharging groundwater
  • Protecting biological diversity
  • Providing opportunities for educational, scientific, and limited recreational activities.

Protect Wildlife graphic

Wetland easements are also crucial to wildlife like

Agricultural Lands

Agricultural land easements protect the long-term viability of the nation’s food supply by preventing conversion of productive working lands to non-agricultural uses. These easements have been crucial to protecting rangelands and farmsteads from urban encroachment, ensuring the most productive lands remain working lands.

5 milliom acres of conservation - working lands

Easements also can be used to protect floodplains, grasslands, and forests, providing public benefits including:

  • Carbon sequestration
  • Water quality
  • Historic preservation
  • Wildlife habitat
  • Protection of open space

Easements have contributed to the restoration of the Southeast’s unique, but rare longleaf pine forests, and to the protection of animals like the Greater Sage-Grouse.

Enrolling in Easements

Farmers, ranchers, and private foresters looking to enroll 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.   

USDA offers a variety of conservation programs that provide help to plan and implement conservation practices on farms, ranches or forests. Learn more about putting conservation to work through our Conservation at Work video series.

 

Ashley Miller is a Public Affairs Specialist with USDA in Washington, DC.