The National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD) has reviewed the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s (NRCS) final Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) rule and is pleased to hear of its submission to the Federal Register on Tuesday. NACD believes the finalized rule will give voluntary conservation program participants the certainty they need to confidently enter into easements on working lands.
The 2014 Farm Bill combined the Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program, Grassland Reserve Program, and Wetlands Reserve Program into the ACEP program. One of the most significant changes this final rule makes to ACEP is requiring participants to obtain an Agricultural Land Easement (ALE) plan. To complete these plans, individual landowners will need to think proactively about how natural resource concerns specific to their property can be addressed now and into the future. NACD strongly supports this approach to locally-led, voluntary conservation.
“The 3,000 districts NACD represents constitute the largest delivery system for voluntary conservation in this country,” NACD President Lee McDaniel said. “Our member districts stand ready to assist landowners with the design and implementation of these ALE plans.”
As NRCS implements the final rule, NACD urges the agency to continue to work with its local partners, in particular, the Local Working Groups and State Technical Committees.
“Many of these groups include district representatives who have worked on the ground with American producers for decades,” NACD CEO Jeremy Peters said. “We hope NRCS will include these groups when prioritizing easements for funding, particularly when choosing grasslands of special significance.”