Wetlands effort helps wildlife, farmers’ wallets
An environmental effort along Mississippi River watersheds in the region could have farmers and wildlife seeing only slightly different shades of green.
March 15, 2012
The Natural Resources Conservation Service has released additional funds through the Wetlands Reserve Enhancement Program to offer compensation for landowners’ frequently flooded and hard-to-maintain farmland to turn into wetland environments. The funding will be made available to landowners around the Obion Creek, Mayfield Creek and Bayou de Chien watersheds in Fulton, Hickman, Carlisle, Ballard and Graves counties, said Shelly Morris, Western Kentucky project director for the Kentucky Chapter of Nature Conservancy. Enrolling in the WREP will place an easement on property, but landowners retain ownership of the land and their right to sell, lease and will the land. Landowners give up their right to crop or timber, but retain the right to hunt and establish food plots, Morris said.
Rates range up to $3,895 per acre for cropland and up to $1,948 per acre for existing woodlands, about 90 percent of the fair market value of comparable area properties. Resource officials inspect the land — ranking the property’s proximity to existing wetlands, soil type and impact to wildlife — and deem the property eligible. “We consider this to be a very good financial compensation to get some of
their harder to deal with agriculture land, that will do wonders for wildlife and the environment,” Morris said. An information meeting for landowners interested in learning more about the WREP will be held at 8 a.m. Tuesday, March 27, at the Fulton County Extension Office in Hickman. “Enrollment into the program allowed me to purchase a ‘better’ row crop production farm and still own both farms,” said Walt Goodman, a Fulton County landowner. As part of the larger Mississippi River Basin Healthy watersheds Initiative, Liz Crane-Wexler, acting assistant state conservationist for natural resource planning with the NRCS, said the effort to rebuild watersheds helps rebuild the diminishing wetlands and reduce agricultural runoff. The NRCS hopes to attain 5,500 acres in western Kentucky to reduce runoff and improve habitat conditions for wildlife.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.