ACEP-WRE for Landowners - FIC

We’ve detected that you are using an outdated browser.

Please use a new browser like Chrome, Firefox, Safari or Microsoft Edge to improve your experience.

We’ve detected that you are using an outdated browser.

ACEP-WRE for Landowners

Welcome. Learn how to successfully participate in the Wetland Reserve Easement component of the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP-WRE). Our ACEP-WRE Toolkit includes fact sheets, videos, annotated checklists, and more to walk you through each phase of ACEP-WRE.
Learn About ACEP-WRE
  • Learn About ACEP-WRE
  • Prepare to Participate
  • Apply to ACEP-WRE
  • Prepare for Acquisition
  • Restoration, Management, and Stewardship
Jump to Section
1. Learn About Conservation Easements
2. Learn About Wetlands
3. Explore How ACEP-WRE Works
4. Get to Know NRCS
Go to top

Learn About ACEP-WRE

The Agricultural Conservation Easement Program – Wetland Reserve Easement (ACEP-WRE) is a voluntary federal conservation program implemented by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). WRE pays landowners to remove land from production and restore and protect wetlands that were previously degraded by agricultural use.

Learn About Conservation Easements

A conservation easement is a voluntary deed restriction you can place on your property to protect important resources including agricultural uses, wildlife habitat or wetlands. The easement is granted to and held by a qualified land trust, public agency, or Native nation with the authority to monitor and enforce the terms of the easement, including restrictions on uses and activities that could threaten the values you are trying to protect. Conservation easements can cover either an entire parcel or just a portion. Landowners work with the easement holder to decide which areas will be protected and have a voice in which uses and activities will be prohibited depending on easement type.

Conservation easements are usually permanent and run with the land ensuring protections remain in place with new landowners. They can be used to protect wetlands and associated natural areas to provide habitat, improve water quality, and enhance groundwater recharge. Conservation easements that protect wetlands limit activities and uses like development, agricultural production, roads, and other structures that would threaten these values.

Learn About Wetlands

Wetlands are special ecosystems created by the constant or recurring presence of water. Over time this creates hydric soils, which are soils formed in the absence of oxygen. Hydric soils and the availability of water during the growing season provide conditions needed for development of specialized water-dependent plant communities. Water, hydric soils, and water dependent plants are the three components that must be present for a wetland to exist and function. Wetlands provide important habitat and ecological functions such as floodwater retention and storage, groundwater recharge, natural filtration of sediments and nutrients by plants and microorganisms, and carbon sequestration.

Wetlands include wet meadows, vernal pools, swamps, marshes, bogs, and bottomland areas with water at or near the surface. They are often located in areas of farms that are lower than surrounding landscapes or are in swales and drainageways. They can be large and cover many acres, or small such as wet potholes in forests, pasture, and cropland. The source of their water can be rainwater retained by clay soils, runoff water from higher areas, ground water or a high water table, and water from adjacent streams and ponds. 

On farms, wetlands act as a natural buffer, slowing storm water runoff and filtering sediment, nutrients, and chemicals. This reduces downstream flooding and streambank erosion and improves water quality. Wetlands provide critical habitat for beneficial insects and native pollinators, which are becoming more recognized for their importance for producing high quality crops, especially fruits and vegetables. They also provide valuable recreational opportunities including hunting, hiking, birdwatching, and scenic enjoyment.

Degraded wetlands are missing one or more core features—hydrology, soils, or vegetation—or have been damaged to the extent that the land no longer functions as a natural wetland. Wetlands are commonly degraded in agricultural settings by draining or diverting the water that feeds them to bring more land into production. This could include excavation of surface drainage ditches, installation of underground pipes and drains, or land grading. Wetlands also may have been degraded by removal of native vegetation. While draining water and/or removing wetland plants may make land more farmable, the base hydric soils still have significant limitations for agricultural uses. Indicators of drained or degraded wetlands include stream channels that are straightened instead of meandering, ditches or parallel swales not normally found in nature, pipes or stone drains coming from a field that discharge water into streams or road ditches. Degraded wetlands may be next to intact wetlands that have retained their hummocky topography, wetland plants and water regime. Drained wetlands used for crop production often have places where farm equipment becomes stuck or leaves ruts, because even with drainage the hydric soils tend to retain water.


  1. Restoring America’s Wetlands

Explore How ACEP-WRE Works

Under the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program-Wetland Reserve Easement (WRE) component, NRCS acquires conservation easements or enters into contracts with landowners on eligible degraded wetlands and eligible adjacent lands. In the case of ACEP-WRE, the United States is the easement holder. NRCS works with landowners to restore wetlands. ACEP-WRE projects always include protection and restoration. ACEP-WRE enrollment options include:

  • Permanent easements
  • 30-year easements
  • Term easements – Term easements are easements that are in place for the maximum duration allowed under state law.
  • 30-year contracts – Only available to acreage owned by Native nations.

Payments will vary based on the enrollment option selected and the length of the easement or contract. NRCS covers up to 100% of the costs of wetland restoration for perpetual easements and up to 75% for non-perpetual easements or contracts.

As a landowner, you will work with NRCS to decide which areas of your property will be protected and restored. NRCS reviews applications and determines whether they meet the program’s eligibility criteria. NRCS works with eligible applicants to develop a preliminary wetland restoration plan with estimated costs. This plan helps NRCS evaluate the likelihood of successful restoration and the significance of the wetland functions and values. Based on this information, NRCS ranks the proposed project alongside other applications. A landowner who is eligible and whose application ranks high enough will be offered an “Agreement for the Purchase of Conservation Easement”, or “Agreement to Enter Contract for 30-Year Land Use”, as applicable. Once you accept the offer, NRCS will work with you to develop the final conservation easement or contract documents and a Wetland Reserve Plan of Operations (WRPO). A WRPO, to the extent practicable, restores the hydrology and original native plant community of a degraded wetland.

Conservation professionals with expertise in soils, plants and biology identify the site’s original soils, hydrology, vegetation, and wildlife, including any rare or at-risk species. They develop cost-effective restoration options. Restoration plans commonly include a mix of constructed or engineered practices to restore hydrology, planting plans to re-establish native vegetation, and operation and maintenance guidance for both. In rare cases, the original hydric soils that are the basis for a wetland are so severely impacted that it is not possible to cost-effectively restore a wetland. 

ACEP-WRE enables you to retire marginal agricultural lands and restore native vegetation and wildlife habitat. These activities may improve passive recreation opportunities, such as hunting and fishing. You can use ACEP-WRE payments to acquire land that is more suitable for active agricultural use.


  1. NRCS Wetland Reserve Easements
  2. NRCS ACEP Fact Sheet

Get to Know NRCS

NRCS is a federal agency within the U.S. Department of Agriculture. NRCS works with farmers, ranchers, and owners of agricultural land to improve agricultural productivity and protect natural resources through conservation practices and programs. NRCS is USDA’s lead technical assistance agency for private lands conservation. Agency staff have expertise in easement administration and in agricultural and natural resources conservation planning and management.

If NRCS or USDA are new to you, the first step would be to visit your local USDA Service Center, meet your local conservationists, and establish records used to qualify landowners for USDA programs. The agency has a statewide office in each state and local service centers in most counties throughout the U.S. Some local service centers serve more than one county. ACEP-WRE program administration staff are often located in the state office, while district conservationists and field staff are in local offices.


  1. An Introduction to USDA NRCS
  2. Programs and Services in NRCS


  1. USDA Service Center Locator
  2. NRCS State Office Websites
  3. NRCS National Web Site


Jump to Section
1. Assess Your Readiness
2. Explore Your Eligibility
3. Understand How NRCS Determines Land Eligibility
4. Identify Enrollment Area
5. Review the ACEP-WRE Deed or Contract
6. Understand Easement or Contract Value
Go to top

Prepare to Participate

Assess Your Readiness

ACEP-WRE enables you to restore and protect wetlands and the function of your land’s natural systems, enhance wildlife habitat, and enjoy passive recreation opportunities. Wetlands act as a natural buffer, slowing storm water runoff and filtering sediment, nutrients, and chemicals. This reduces downstream flooding and streambank erosion and improves water quality. Before you invest more time, however, consider if you are:

  • Comfortable working with a federal agency. You and all other landowners listed on the deed will need to share information with USDA in order to participate in the program.
  • Willing to live with a permanent or long-term restriction on your property.
  • Ready to restore and manage your land as natural wetlands and wildlife habitat.
  • Willing to maintain a long-term relationship with NRCS who will work with you to uphold the terms of the easement or contract.
  • Willing to forego other USDA program payments for the life of the easement. Any existing cropland base and allotment history for enrolled acres will be permanently retired at the time the easement is recorded.


  1. NRCS Wetland Reserve Program Web Page
  2. Restoring America’s Wetlands

Explore Your Eligibility

Landowners must meet minimum ACEP-WRE eligibility criteria related to income and on-farm conservation compliance. If the land parcel is owned by more than one person or entity, each owner must individually meet these requirements. 

Refer to the deed to identify every person or entity that has ownership rights in the land, as each will need to separately complete eligibility documentation. Land trusts are eligible landowners under ACEP-WRE. If the land is owned by an entity, all members of that entity must meet income requirements. Depending on the entity ownership structure, members may need to meet conservation compliance requirements.

Staff at USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) can help guide you through this eligibility certification process.

You will need:

  • Records established with FSA to identify landowners and land.
  • An average Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) below $900,000 for the three preceding tax years.
  • Compliance with USDA’s conservation requirements for highly erodible land and wetlands.

FSA is an agency of the USDA that handles many financial operations for the department’s programming. FSA maintains records verifying landowners meet AGI and highly erodible land and wetland conservation requirements. FSA offices are often co-located with NRCS offices. These offices are called Service Centers and have locations in almost every county across the country. You can make an appointment with your local Service Center to get the relevant forms and receive assistance completing them. When making your appointment, ask FSA staff what documentation you should bring with you in order to streamline the process. If you have participated in USDA programs in the past, you may have records already established that identify the parcels you own and/or farm and other farm information.

FSA can provide a Subsidiary Print report that summarizes key eligibility information. Ideally, this documentation should be completed at least 2 to 3 months before applying. You may need to update documents such as the AGI certification at the start of a new federal fiscal year (October 1).

Native Nations

Certain Native nations and Alaska Native Corporations are eligible to participate in ACEP-WRE. They must be federally recognized, meaning they are listed in an annual publication from the Bureau of Indian Affairs in the Federal Register. In addition to the ACEP-WRE easement options, Nations are eligible to participate by entering into a 30-year land use contract.

Native nations must be compliant with Highly Erodible Land/Wetland Conservation provisions but are exempt from AGI provisions. Individuals who apply in their own name for land they own do need to meet AGI provisions even if they personally are American Indian or Alaskan Native.

Land Ownership Length Requirements

You must have owned the land you are enrolling for at least 24 months before you apply. There are some exceptions. NRCS staff can provide you with additional information about a waiver if an exception applies to you.


  1. ACEP-WRE Landowner Eligibility Checklist
  2. U.S. Department of Interior Federally Recognized Tribes
  3. Get Started at Your USDA Service Center
  4. USDA Common Forms
  5. FSA Payment Eligibility Web Page


  1. FSA AGI Fact Sheet
  2. USDA Conservation Compliance Fact Sheet
  3. Example Individual Landowner Subsidiary Print
  4. Example Entity Landowner Subsidiary Print
  5. List of Federally Recognized Tribes

Understand How NRCS Determines Land Eligibility

NRCS will be determining your land’s eligibility for enrollment. Agency staff will interview you and visit the property to learn more about your goals and evaluate the site. NRCS will determine whether your land:

  • Is privately owned, or owned by a Native nation or Alaska Native Corporation;
  • Maximizes wildlife benefits and wetland functions and values;
  • Is capable of being restored, taking into consideration the cost and whether the site can support wetland hydrology and native vegetation, including adequate water rights where applicable;
  • Contains eligible land types, which include:
    • Farmed or converted wetlands that were previously degraded by agricultural use (in general wetlands converted after 1985 are not eligible);
    • Croplands or grasslands flooded by overflow of a closed basin lake or pothole;
    • Riparian areas that will link protected wetlands;
    • Certain land enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), including restored land that is likely to return to production after it is removed from CRP enrollment;
    • Wetlands restored or protected under another restoration program, such as Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP) or Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program, where an ACEP-WRE easement or contract will provide additional protection; or
    • Adjacent lands that serve as a buffer to the wetlands or align boundaries.
  • Is large enough and configured to allow efficient restoration, management, maintenance, monitoring, and enforcement;
  • Has sufficient physical and legal access from a public right-of-way; and
  • Has acceptable on-site and off-site property conditions. NRCS will note the risk of hazardous materials, rights-of-way such as utility transmission lines, infrastructure development, or adjacent land uses that would undermine the purposes of the program.

Land is not eligible if it, (1) is already subject to protections similar to ACEP-WRE, (2) has unacceptable exceptions to clear title, (3) has third-party rights that interfere with ACEP-WRE purposes, or (4) if enrollment would cause more than 25% of the total cropland in the county to be enrolled in CRP and ACEP-WRE. Be sure to provide NRCS with any information you have regarding outstanding property interests early in the application process.  

Identify Enrollment Area

Before you apply, talk to NRCS staff about how participation in ACEP-WRE supports your future goals and discuss easement or contract boundaries. The size and configuration of the area proposed for enrollment may impact your land’s eligibility and ranking. The number of acres you enroll impacts the easement payment.

You can start exploring potential easement boundaries using the NRCS Web Soil Survey tool below, noting your property’s land uses and soil quality. Your local NRCS office may also be able to provide a soils report for your property that lists specific soil mapping units and if they include hydric soils that you can use to plan alternative project boundaries. NRCS uses several resources to assess your land. If you are interested in learning more about these references and tools refer to the list below.

As you explore your options, keep in mind the following:

  • If you do not plan on enrolling the entire parcel, can the proposed area still be effectively restored on its own, and what configuration could help make future easement maintenance and monitoring simpler?
  • Submitting the entire parcel, if eligible, may improve the ranking of your application and maximize easement payment. In addition, NRCS will give preference to applications that include key wetland and habitat areas.
  • Consider excluding areas from the easement that have improvements you want to retain, such as buildings or improved roads. Think about how you will maintain access to portions of your property that are not included in the easement for yourself and for NRCS.

NRCS can provide you with feedback about what boundary options align best with the program’s purposes. Ultimately, NRCS determines if the final boundaries comply with program policy and regulatory requirements. It is important to think through these items and decide on a project area before applying. While there may be opportunities to make minor changes in easement boundaries during the application process, these changes can slow down the process and impact payments. The boundaries cannot be changed after the easement is in place.

Consider Wetland and Habitat Restoration Options

NRCS will give highest priority to applications with the best potential to restore the original wetland and habitat types. If this cannot be done or done economically, there may be restoration options that provide alternative wetland and habitat that occurs naturally in the area.

You should discuss with NRCS what the likely original wetland and habitat was and what the restoration options are. If you apply, NRCS will develop a preliminary Wetland Reserve Plan of Operations (WRPO) to assess the original wetland types and habitats and what restoration practices may be needed. This plan is developed collaboratively, with NRCS giving final approval. You can provide input into what boundaries and restoration practices will meet your objectives. Before then, research what kinds of restoration might be done. Your local NRCS office may be able to provide examples.


  1.  Sample Wetland Reserve Plan of Operations


  1. NRCS Web Soil Survey
  2. NRCS Electronic Field Office Technical Guide
  3. NRCS Hydric Soils Web Page
  4. NRCS State Soil Data Access (SDA) Hydric Soils List


  1. How to Use the Web Soil Survey
  2. Tri-State WRE Management Video Series
  3. Indiana NRCS WRE Video
  4. Delaware Wetland Restoration
  5. Wetland Restoration in Western Minnesota

Review the ACEP-WRE Deed or Contract

ACEP-WRE uses standard language for easement deeds and contracts. It is important to read and understand the terms before applying, since they cannot be changed after the easement is in place. Consider consulting with an attorney to help review the terms and represent your interests in the transaction.

Landowners retain rights to quiet enjoyment, control of access, undeveloped recreational uses such as hunting and fishing, water rights, and subsurface mineral rights provided that drilling or mining activities must be located outside the easement area. The deed allows NRCS to conduct restoration and management activities. The ACEP-WRE deed does not allow activities which are contrary to the easement purposes of restoring and protecting natural wetland functions and values and wildlife habitat. Prohibited activities include agricultural activities such as planting or harvesting crops, haying, and grazing, altering grassland, woodland and wildlife habitat, building structures, draining, dredging or filling. ACEP-WRE deeds and contracts are fundamentally different from ACEP-ALE deeds because they do not allow agricultural production and do not make allowances for building envelopes or impervious surfaces.


  1. ACEP-WRE Deed Terms with Commentary
  2. ACEP-WRE Warranty Easement Deed in Perpetuity
  3. ACEP-WRE Warranty Easement Deed for a Period of 30 Years
  4. ACEP-WRE Contract for 30-Year Land Use


  1. American Bar Association Lawyer Referral Directory

Understand Easement or Contract Value

NRCS determines easement or contract values by establishing the fair market value of the parcel and then applying a Geographic Area Rate Cap (GARC) to this value. Fair market value is determined by the lesser of an Areawide Market Analysis or an individual appraisal (using Uniform Standards for Professional Appraisal Practices). The GARC is established each fiscal year in consultation with the State Technical Committee. The GARC takes into consideration appraised property values, location, land use, and program demand. Contact your state NRCS easement program staff to get a copy of the rates for your area. You can also check your NRCS state easement program web page.

NRCS pays all or a portion of the costs to restore wetlands and habitat. Payments will vary based on the enrollment option selected and the length of the easement or contract. NRCS covers up to 100% of the costs of wetland restoration for perpetual easements and up to 75% for non-perpetual easements or contracts. Restoration work can be contracted by NRCS, subcontracted to a third-party agency or organization with experience with wetland restoration, or can be subcontracted by the landowner who is reimbursed by NRCS at agreed-to amounts. Be sure to talk to NRCS about who is responsible for the cost of ongoing maintenance associated with practices and activities described in the WRPO.

Jump to Section
1. Be Aware of Application Cycles
2. Learn About ACEP-WRE Ranking Criteria
3. Gather Supporting Documentation
4. Complete Your Application Form
5. Prepare for a Site Visit
Go to top

Apply to ACEP-WRE

Be Aware of Application Cycles

If you decide to apply for ACEP-WRE, one of the first things to do is learn about the current year’s timeline for filing an application. Applications for ACEP-WRE are accepted on a rolling basis, but NRCS state offices post information each year about application batching periods, the dates when submitted applications are evaluated and ranked. The federal fiscal year begins on October 1st. You can also contact your state or local NRCS office to ask about ACEP-WRE application dates, procedures, and additional materials required for an application. It is also helpful to let your local NRCS District Conservationist know that you are planning to apply for ACEP-WRE. In some states, this person may be the one conducting site visits and long-term monitoring.


  1. NRCS State Offices
  2. USDA Service Center Locator

Learn About ACEP-WRE Ranking Criteria

Ranking establishes the order that funding offers will be made to landowners when the number of applications exceeds available funding. The criteria NRCS uses to rank applications help ensure the agency prioritizes projects that meet the purposes of the program in statute—to restore, protect, and enhance wetlands. Ranking criteria may consider:

  • Conservation benefits, including:
    • Hydrology restoration potential
    • Whether habitat will be restored for migratory birds and wetland-dependent wildlife
    • Whether habitat for threatened, endangered, or at-risk species will be restored
    • Proximity to other protected habitat
    • Whether the location or type of land supports state or regional goals for wetland restoration or wildlife habitat
  • The cost-effectiveness of each easement, considering estimated cost of restoration;
  • Other financial contributions; and
  • Whether the easement is permanent.

NRCS develops factors with input from the State Technical Committee. NRCS state offices may establish local priority areas, identify priority wildlife habitat, determine the likelihood of successful restoration, and provide other criteria that may be integrated into their ranking procedures. As a result, ranking criteria are unique to each state and are updated each fiscal year and are posted on the state NRCS web page. If you do not see your state’s ranking criteria posted, contact the state NRCS program manager.


  1. NRCS State Offices
  2. USDA Service Center Locator

Gather Supporting Documentation

Before completing an application form, confirm that each landowner listed on the property deed has updated income and conservation compliance certifications with FSA for the fiscal year in which you are applying. This will ensure you are eligible to participate in ACEP-WRE and receive payments. If you are unsure, request a Subsidiary Print report from FSA. Below are examples of this report.

You will need a copy of the deed for the property. The deed is used throughout the application process to provide information about landowners, their share of ownership, and length of ownership. You will also need a map that clearly shows property boundaries and legal access to the proposed easement. A tax map on a photo base can be used. FSA may be able to provide a map or an aerial photograph of the property if you have established farm records with them.


  1. ACEP-WRE National Application Checklist
  2. Example Individual Landowner Subsidiary Print
  3. Example Entity Landowner Subsidiary Print

Complete Your Application Form

Use the Conservation Program Application (NRCS-CPA-1200) to apply for ACEP-WRE. The form and instructions are available from your local NRCS office or online from NRCS’ Applications and Forms page. If there are multiple landowners, it is helpful to designate one individual owner as the primary contact person and representative for the application. That person will need to have authority to represent other landowners for the purposes of applying for ACEP-WRE. Ask NRCS about the requirements to document signature authority. You can provide existing signature authority documents to NRCS for their review and approval.

Contact your local NRCS office if you have questions about completing the application. Allow yourself enough time to compile information and complete the required certifications so the application and supporting material can be submitted by your state’s application batching period. Applications that are received after the cutoff date may be considered in the next application cycle, which may not be until the following year depending on funding availability. Applications are generally submitted to your local NRCS office. There may be options to submit by electronic means such as email or through your account if you have registered for one. Your state or local NRCS program staff can tell you the best way to submit an application.


  1. Application Form, NRCS-CPA-1200 
  3. NRCS Applications and Forms
  4. FSA Power of Attorney Form, FSA-211

Prepare for a Site Visit

Once your application is submitted, NRCS will make an initial determination about whether it meets eligibility requirements. State NRCS staff will work to collect information about your land’s eligibility and may contact you to help fill in information gaps. NRCS staff will then schedule a site visit with you to further confirm land eligibility, conduct preliminary investigations, develop a preliminary restoration plan, and gather the information needed to complete ranking.

NRCS may also assess whether any existing structures or improvements on the proposed easement or contract area are compatible with ACEP-WRE.

NRCS staff will complete the Hazardous Materials Field Inspection Checklist and Landowner Interview using information gathered from an interview with you and the site assessment. You will complete the Landowner Disclosure Worksheet.

In addition, NRCS will work with a private environmental firm to check records for any hazardous material spills or potential off-site sources of contamination that might impact the parcel. Funding decisions are made once these steps are complete.



  1. Hazardous Materials Field Inspection Checklist
  2. Hazardous Materials Landowner Interview
  3. Landowner Disclosure Worksheet
Jump to Section
1. Review and Execute WRE Agreement to Purchase
2. Review the WRE Deed or Contract
3. Provide Clear Title
4. Confirm Legal Boundary
5. Work with NRCS to Finalize the WRPO
6. Update Farm Records with USDA Farm Service Agency
7. Complete the Transaction
8. Promote the Project
Go to top

Prepare for Acquisition

After NRCS has conducted its preliminary site visit, you will be notified if your application meets land and landowner eligibility and has ranked high enough to be selected for funding. Eligible applications not selected for funding are deferred to the next fiscal year unless the applicant requests cancellation in writing. If applications are carried forward, landowner eligibility will be reevaluated. 

If you decide to move forward, you will then enter into an agreement with NRCS and NRCS will manage the acquisition process through closing. The time needed to complete the easement acquisition process will vary depending on the complexity of the project. It is not unusual for easement acquisition to take one or two years from when the agreement is signed. Keep in regular contact with NRCS, respond promptly to requests for information, and let NRCS know if you have any questions.  

NRCS will prepare most of the documents needed for acquisition. You will need to participate in some steps throughout the acquisition process such as clearing title issues, confirming final easement boundaries and access points, and developing the Wetland Reserve Plan of Operations (WRPO). You may want to hire an attorney representing your interests to assist you with legal and real estate steps. We have outlined the typical order of events, but the timing of acquisition activities depends on the management of the project by your NRCS state office.

Each funded parcel must pass through NRCS’s internal review process at the state and national levels before the project can close and payments can be issued. NRCS refers to this process as Internal Controls. Most documents are due at least 90 days before the planned closing date, but NRCS may want to complete these steps sooner so there is time to resolve any issues that come up in the review process. 

Review and Execute WRE Agreement to Purchase

NRCS typically will provide a tentative offer letter describing the next steps in the process and may request additional information needed to proceed. After NRCS receives all required information, they will send you an Agreement for the Purchase of Conservation Easement or Agreement to Enter Contract for 30-Year Land Use. The acquisition process starts when you sign your agreement. Generally, you are allowed 15 calendar days to review, sign, and return the agreement, accepting the offer. This deadline may be adjusted by NRCS. 
The agreement lists the amount NRCS will pay, describes the property and acreage, and lists the easement or contract length. The agreement will list a date by which the easement will close unless an extension is agreed to by both parties. The agreement also specifies that NRCS will have the right to implement the Wetland Reserve Plan of Operations (WRPO). You indicate whether you want NRCS to implement restoration practices using a federal contract, or if you want to manage those restoration activities and be reimbursed by NRCS. This may be changed later if the language of the original restoration agreement or contract allows. Discuss the procedures for implementing and maintaining conservation practices with NRCS. The agreement also includes language giving NRCS the ability to cancel the agreement for specific reasons, including lack of funds (which is rare), inability to clear title, lack of sufficient legal access, sale of the land, or risk of hazardous substance contamination.


  1. Agreement for Purchase of a Conservation Easement 
  2. Agreement to Enter Contract for 30-Year Land Use  (for Native nation landowners)

Review the WRE Deed or Contract

NRCS uses a standard Warranty Easement Deed or 30-Year Contract for ACEP-WRE. Be sure you understand the terms and ask NRCS to explain anything that is not clear. You may want to consult with your own attorney to help you through this process. Be sure to read the full easement or contract. Keep in mind, ACEP-WRE is specifically structured to restore, protect, manage, maintain, and enhance wetlands and other lands for the conservation of natural values. This excludes many activities that do not support these purposes and intent, whether or not they are specifically listed as prohibited activities. In particular, review these provisions:  

  • Reservations in the Landowner on the Easement Area.  These are the rights you retain under the easement or contract, including overall title to the land, right to passive recreation such as hiking, hunting, and fishing, control of who can access the land, and subsurface rights. You do not need any additional written authorization from NRCS to exercise these rights. Exercising these rights without causing physical impacts to the land, water, vegetation, or wildlife habitat is generally compatible with purposes and objectives of the easement. 
  • Prohibited Activities. The deed lists prohibited types of activities that are not allowed on the easement, including, but not limited to, haying, mowing, building structures, grazing, and developed recreation. The deed also includes a general prohibition on any activity that adversely changes or impacts wetlands, habitat, or water quality to ensure the purposes of the program are being met. Some of these activities may be authorized by NRCS if specific conditions are met, such as if they are approved as restoration or management activities or compatible uses.  
  • Responsibilities of the Landowner. You are responsible for managing noxious weeds—plants  that are invasive and difficult to control and may be identified in state law—maintaining fences, paying taxes, and more. In addition, you must allow the restoration and management activities described in the WRPO. These plans may change over time if different practices are needed to maintain wetland functions and values.   
  • Compatible Uses by the Landowner. NRCS may allow you to conduct other compatible activities not listed in the deed or contract that are consistent with the long-term protection and enhancement of the wetlands and other natural values of the easement. This can include activities undertaken by you to maintain restoration practices, periodic mowing, haying, or grazing that supports wetland or habitat functions. Compatible use authorizations are not guaranteed or permanent rights under the easement or contract and can be revoked by NRCS at any time. 
  • Rights of the United States. The deed describes rights of the United States to enter the easement area to restore, protect, manage, maintain, enhance, and monitor the wetland and other natural values of the area. It also describes the right to enter to determine compliance with an ACEP-WRE easement or contract provisions and the right to enforce the easement or contract. 

Once the ACEP-WRE easement or contract is placed on the parcel, conveying interests like rights-of-way to others will need to be evaluated and approved by NRCS. While the ACEP-WRE deed or contract language cannot be changed, some supporting documents that are referenced in the deed or contract can be amended. This includes the WRPO and authorized compatible uses. NRCS, however, must approve any revisions to these supporting documents.  


  1. ACEP-WRE Deed Terms with Commentary
  2. ACEP-WRE Warranty Easement Deed in Perpetuity 
  3. ACEP-WRE Warranty Easement Deed for a Period of 30 Years 
  4. ACEP-WRE Contract for 30-Year Land Use 

Provide Clear Title

NRCS will take several steps to confirm clear title to the property. NRCS obtains a legal title search and examines exceptions to the title using ACEP policy, Department of Justice title regulations, and the ACEP Title Exception Guide (below). The title search identifies outstanding interests, recorded title encumbrances, and other title issues of record that could undermine, preclude, or interfere with NRCS’ ability to achieve the purposes of the program or exercise the rights being acquired through the warranty easement deed or 30-year contract. In addition, NRCS conducts a site inspection and will interview you to determine whether there are unrecorded encumbrances. 

Typical issues that must be addressed include outstanding mortgages, life estates, judgments, leases, liens and mineral interests, and any interest that could prevent restoration of the wetland. All issues must be resolved prior to closing. Mortgages must be subordinated to the ACEP-WRE easement or paid off prior to closing. If you plan to use the easement proceeds to pay off an outstanding mortgage prior to closing, notify NRCS and your attorney. In addition, leases, easements, or rights of way that are incompatible with the purposes of the conservation easement must be removed or subordinated. Agricultural leases must be cancelled or modified to remove land that will be subject to the easement or contract. Rights of first refusal, judgments, mechanics liens, and tax liens must be removed or subordinated. If subsurface rights to your property have been severed or are otherwise owned by a third party, you should communicate that to your state NRCS program manager early in the application process so that NRCS can make a determination as to whether the outstanding subsurface rights or mineral interests are compatible with the easement program. 

You and your attorney will be responsible for reconciling any title issues that may conflict with the ACEP-WRE easement or contract by removing or subordinating other interests as required. While NRCS and the USDA Office of the General Counsel have exclusive discretion to make decisions regarding the acceptability of title exceptions, any additional information you can provide may assist NRCS in making those determinations.

Confirm Legal Boundary

As part of the acquisition process, the boundary of the proposed easement or contract area must be delineated by a land survey and written legal description. The survey and legal description also identify other easements, access to and from the easement area, rights of way, and encroachments. Knowing exactly where the recorded easement acres are located will assist NRCS with its monitoring, management, and enforcement responsibilities. 

NRCS will coordinate the survey work. You will participate in field reviews throughout the process to ensure that the area delineated is the area you intend to place under the easement and the access route is accurate and acceptable. During the post-survey field visit, NRCS will verify that the easement boundary monuments and witness posts have been installed. 

Following NRCS and landowner approval, the legal boundary of the easement area (referred to as the “Certificate of Survey”) is recorded in the local land records. The exact recording requirements vary by state. The survey will be made an exhibit to the ACEP-WRE deed or contract. If the surveyed acreage is different than the estimated acreage as listed in the purchase agreement, the purchase price will be adjusted. 


  1. ACEP Title Exception Guide 
  2. USDA Subordination Agreement and Limited Lien Waiver, AD-1158 

Work with NRCS to Finalize the WRPO

The WRPO is finalized before closing for 30-year easements or contracts and finalized before obligation of funds to the final restoration contract for permanent easements. You can provide input in the WRPO development and implementation process, such as your preferences for the type and location of conservation practices used to restore wetlands and natural vegetation. However, NRCS is ultimately responsible for ensuring that ACEP-WRE objectives are fully met and is the final authority regarding the use of program funds and the practices and activities prescribed on protected lands. NRCS is the final decisionmaker for WRPO development and content. You may choose to assume operation and maintenance (O&M) responsibilities for practices, such as managing structures for water control used to raise and lower water levels. Discuss these procedures with NRCS. If you cannot perform O&M activities, NRCS will develop an alternate plan.  


  1. Sample Wetland Reserve Plan of Operation 

Update Farm Records with USDA Farm Service Agency

If land in the easement area was recently used for agriculture, it may be enrolled in programs administered by USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA). This land must be retired before closing the ACEP-WRE project. You are responsible for working with the FSA to retire these acres. If you have the option to transfer base acres to another farm or tract, work with FSA to facilitate this exchange. After the ACEP-WRE warranty easement deed is recorded, NRCS will notify the local and state FSA offices, providing the date of recording and total acreage enrolled (including an updated map or shapefile as needed), and documents that they have notified FSA in the easement case file. 

Complete the Transaction

ACEP-WRE enrollment is finalized when NRCS acquires the conservation easement at a real estate closing or executes the 30-year contract. The easement or contract transfers development rights to NRCS and allows the agency to restore wetlands and habitat and prevent activities that are incompatible with the functional values of wetlands and other lands in exchange for payment.  

The closing transaction can be held after NRCS receives approval from its legal counsel (USDA Office of General Counsel) and NRCS has completed its due diligence. This includes conducting a pre-acquisition inspection to confirm that site conditions have not been adversely impacted and comply with ACEP-WRE requirements. These findings are documented in a Preliminary Certificate of Inspection and Possession. A Final Certificate of Inspection and Possession is also completed after closing.  

NRCS will hire a closing agent to coordinate the documents needed to complete the transaction, including the ACEP-WRE deed or contract and any subordination agreements. They examine the real estate records from the date of the title commitment to the closing to make sure no new encumbrances have been recorded. The closing agent disburses the payment and provides you with an IRS 1099 form. The agent then records the ACEP-WRE deed or contract in the office where local land records are officially recorded in your state (e.g., clerk or registrar of land records) within 5 business days of the closing date. NRCS will notify FSA that the easement has been finalized. 

Closing procedures for 30-year contracts are similar to easement closing procedures. In addition, NRCS will conduct due diligence to confirm the contract is acceptable to any third party, as required.  Contracts and agreements entered into by a Native nation that encumber their lands for seven or more years require approval by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.  


  1. Preliminary Certificate of Inspection and Possession 
  2. Final Certificate of Inspection and Possession 

Promote the Project

After the closing and restoration are complete, NRCS may ask for your help acknowledging key stakeholders and highlighting project outcomes. This outreach can help raise public awareness about the importance of wetland protection and restoration and build public support. By acknowledging key wetland restoration and protection programs like ACEP-WRE, you can help demonstrate the need for these programs to policymakers. Your willingness to permanently protect your land may be important to your friends and neighbors. Consider ways to use your project to promote conservation and wetland restoration in your neighborhood. 

Jump to Section
1. Restore the Wetland Area
2. Manage the Protected Land
3. Prepare for Monitoring
4. Recognize NRCS Procedures for Enforcement
5. Request Changes to the Deed
6. 30-Year Term Expiration
Go to top

Restoration, Management, and Stewardship

Restore the Wetland Area

Now that the easement or contract has closed, NRCS will work with you to restore the land according to the final Wetland Reserve Plan of Operations (WRPO). In general, Agricultural Conservation Easement Program – Wetland Reserve Easements (ACEP-WRE) restoration must begin within one year of the easement recording or contract signing, and restoration activities must be completed within three years. NRCS can document and approve extensions in certain situations. The final WRPO provides the basis for easement restoration by listing the conservation practices needed, location for installation, and how to operate and maintain them to restore and maintain the highest quality habitat The WRPO informs an easement restoration agreement that contains: the Conservation Plan or Schedule of Operations and an obligating contract for practice implementation.  

NRCS implements the WRPO by entering into an easement restoration agreement with you or another entity. NRCS uses the Conservation Plan or Schedule of Operations (the “Schedule”) to list the timeline and costs of restoration for each conservation practice based on NRCS payment rates, including actual contractor’s bids or engineer cost estimates. The Schedule lists the dollar amount for each practice. Be sure to discuss any potential changes with NRCS before implementing practices; expenses beyond approved amounts in the Schedule or modified Schedule are your responsibility. 

NRCS uses various contracts to secure funds for practice implementation, including Conservation Program Contracts (CPC), federal contracts, contribution agreements, cooperative agreements, interagency agreements, or other procurement methods. Since a landowner, vendor, or partner may not be fully capable of implementing the restoration practices required under the final WRPO, there may be multiple restoration agreements for an individual easement or contract. If restoration is being implemented under a Conservation Program Contract with the landowner, an annual contract review is done to review progress and determine if adjustments are needed.   

The WRPO also includes supporting documents, such as the Conservation Practice Implementation Requirements, which detail recommendations and requirements for implementation and for proper long-term operation and maintenance (O&M) of conservation practices, to ensure they function for their planned lifespan. Refer to these documents for guidance on what is needed and when it should be done. If you decide to implement the conservation practices yourself, it will be your responsibility to secure a qualified contractor. NRCS may provide engineering assistance if needed.  

The WRPO will also list who is responsible for ongoing O&M of the installed conservation practices. If you have agreed to be responsible for O&M, refer to the Conservation Practice Implementation Requirements for guidance. Operation and maintenance activities listed in the WRPO must be authorized by NRCS through Compatible Use Authorizations (CUA) prior to implementation. See below for more information about CUAs. 


  1. Sample Wetland Reserve Plan of Operation 
  2. Conservation Plan or Schedule of Operations, NRCS-CPA-1155  
  3. Conservation Program Contract, NRCS-CPA-1202  

Manage the Protected Land

Once enrolled, you can continue to use your land for quiet enjoyment, but active management of the area covered by the ACEP-WRE easement deed or contract is prohibited or limited. Activities allowed by right that do not require prior approval from NRCS are summarized as “Reservation in the Landowner on the Easement Area” in the easement deed and called “Permitted Uses of the Property During the Term of this Contract” in the 30-year contract. They include quiet enjoyment, control of access, and passive recreational uses. Subsurface rights and water rights can also be retained, subject to requirements for locating drilling and mining activities outside of the protected area. These are subject to terms and conditions described in written exhibits to the warranty easement deed. All rights not specifically reserved to the landowner require site-specific evaluation and specific authorization from NRCS prior to implementation. 

The ACEP-WRE warranty easement deed or contract lists activities and uses that are prohibited, such as:

  • Haying, mowing, or seed harvesting;  
  • Altering grassland, woodland, wildlife habitat, or other natural features by burning, digging, plowing, disking, cutting, or otherwise destroying the vegetative cover;  
  • Accumulating or dumping refuse, wastes, sewage, or other debris;  
  • Harvesting wood or sod products;  
  • Draining, dredging, channeling, filling, leveling, pumping, diking, impounding, or related activities, as well as altering or tampering with water control structures or devices;  
  • Diverting surface or underground water;  
  • Building or placing structures on the protected area, except for semi-permanent hunting or observation blinds (up to 80 square feet and 8 feet tall) for undeveloped recreational uses;  
  • Planting or harvesting any crop;  
  • Grazing or allowing livestock on the protected land;  
  • Disturbing or interfering with the nesting or brood-rearing activities of wildlife, including migratory birds;  
  • Developed recreation, including but not limited to camping facilities, recreational vehicle trails and tracks, sporting clay operations, skeet shooting operations, firearm range operations, and the infrastructure to raise, stock, and release captive raised waterfowl, game birds and other wildlife for hunting or fishing;  
  • Any activities which adversely impact or degrade wildlife cover or other habitat benefits, water quality benefits, or other wetland functions and values of the protected area; and  
  • Any activities carried out on immediately adjacent land you own that is functionally related to the protected area that would alter, degrade, or otherwise diminish the value of the protected area. 

NRCS may, however, authorize uses or management activities if the proposed use is consistent with the long-term protection and enhancement of the wetland and other natural values of the easement area. NRCS issues Compatible Use Authorizations (CUAs) that include the amount, methods, timing, intensity, and duration of approved compatible uses using Form AD-1160. NRCS state easement staff will make these determinations. CUAs are subject to revisions and are not recorded with the warranty easement deed. They can be revoked by NRCS at any time. Examples of potential compatible uses include the following: 

  • Authorization to implement, operate or maintain practices and activities listed in the WRPO, such as operating a water control structure to raise and lower the water level in restored wetlands. 
  • Selectively pruning trees to improve wildlife habitat as a Forest Stand Improvement activity. 
  • Mowing a walking path.  

These activities are not automatically categorized as compatible uses. NRCS determines compatibility on a case-by-case basis. 

If you have any questions about what activities are allowed on your easement-protected land, speak with NRCS. It is important to engage in direct, and up-front communication with NRCS early in the enrollment process to avoid violating the easement. Review all authorizations with NRCS, including plans and schedules of operations, CUAs, management plans, long-term agreements, and operation and maintenance plans. You can also consult your own attorney if you have questions about these agreements.  


  1. ACEP-WRE Deed Terms with Commentary
  2. ACEP-WRE Warranty Easement Deed in Perpetuity
  3. ACEP-WRE Warranty Easement Deed for a Period of 30 Years
  4. ACEP-WRE Contract for 30-Year Land Use
  5. Compatible Use Authorization, AD-1160

Prepare for Monitoring

NRCS monitors ACEP-WRE easements and 30-year contracts every year to ensure the deed or contract provisions are being met, the WRPO and compatible use authorizations are being followed, and wetland and habitat restoration objectives are being met.  

NRCS uses both onsite and offsite monitoring methods to gain different perspectives of the property. They monitor the property offsite using tools such as remote sensing or aerial photography. NRCS will notify you before doing an onsite inspection of the protected area and encourage you to participate.

When monitoring the easement onsite, NRCS staff generally will:

  • Confirm NRCS has adequate access to the easement;
  • Check that boundaries are properly marked and there are no apparent encroachments;
  • Walk the interior of the property to confirm compliance with easement or contract requirements and Compatible Use Authorizations;
  • Inspect conservation practices or restoration infrastructure to evaluate WRPO progress and determine if repairs or replacement are needed; and
  • Determine if new maintenance activities, restoration practices, or Compatible Use Authorizations are needed.

Using the information gathered during monitoring, NRCS staff document conditions using an Annual Monitoring Worksheet. NRCS may follow up with you if there are any concerns about compliance that could potentially lead to violations.

Recognize NRCS Procedures for Enforcement

NRCS is responsible for enforcing the terms and conditions of the ACEP-WRE deed or contract. NRCS defines an ACEP-WRE violation as any action that is prohibited under the terms of the deed or contract, not specifically authorized, or not compliant with restoration or management requirements. Generally, violations are uses and activities that could harm the wetland or habitat, such as conducting agricultural activities, building structures, improving access roads or paths, mowing or cutting vegetation, and allowing debris and other waste to build up. NRCS staff make efforts to head-off violations or negotiate remedies with you.

NRCS follows a specific process in the event of a violation. If a violation is minor, meaning it is not likely to have lasting or severe long-term effects, NRCS staff will have a conversation with you about how to correct the issue. For more significant violations, or in cases where suggested corrections to a minor violation were not made, NRCS will develop a Violation Remediation Plan describing the nature of the violation and actions needed to correct it. Once this plan is developed, NRCS will provide you with a copy, notifying you of the violation, the required actions, and the period to cure. If NRCS believes immediate action is necessary to prevent, terminate, or mitigate a violation, they can enter the property and request that you or a third-party violator cease any ongoing violation activities.

NRCS will always attempt to work with you to resolve violations. However, if that becomes impossible, NRCS will use other methods to remedy the violation. NRCS can hire contractors to remediate the property at your expense or pursue legal action to compel you to fix the violation. In general, cost recovery is pursued as a last resort. Legal action may include civil action to prevent further easement violations and to collect damages; debt collection to collect expenses incurred in enforcement; and other remedies depending upon the nature of the violation. In rare circumstances, the United States may pursue criminal prosecution of the person who violates the easement or federal law or regulations. Importantly, the United States has the right to recover the expenses it incurs (including any legal fees or attorney fees) associated with enforcement and remediation of the violation.

Request Changes to the Deed

ACEP-WRE easement deeds and contracts cannot be changed after they are recorded. NRCS, however, may amend exhibits to the ACEP-WRE deed using administration actions. There are two categories of administration actions: (1) title corrections and legal adjustments; and (2) subordinations, modifications, exchanges, and terminations. Both require NRCS approval and are at the discretion of the agency. 

Title Corrections and NRCS-Approved Legal Adjustments

Exhibits to the easement deed can be amended to make minor corrections, including typographical errors, minor changes in legal descriptions as a result of survey or mapping errors, and address changes. NRCS must approve these changes. 

Legal adjustments may result from the approval of: 

  • Changes within the conservation easement area that will have a neutral or positive impact on the easement. This could include updates to the location of a water source that has moved over time; 
  • Relocation of easement legal access; 
  • Acceptance of overlay easements to enhance easement protections; or 
  • Additional interests or protections, such as the unification of legal estates. 

Procedures for making a minor change to a 30-year contract are the same as making changes to easements. For lands held by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), modification requires an amendment to the 30-year contract and the approval of the landowner, NRCS, and the designated BIA official.

If you want to request a change, provide an analysis of how the request satisfies the conservation easement deed and any other supporting documentation to your state NRCS program manager for their review. The analysis and documentation needed to support a request depends on the individual property on a case-by-case basis. 

The State Conservationist can either deny the request or recommend approval to the NRCS national Easement Programs Division Director.

The EPD Director will review the recommendation and submitted materials and make a final decision to approve or deny the proposed title correction or legal adjustment. The state NRCS office will receive a written approval or denial of the proposal from the EPD Director along with justification and next steps as applicable. If the request is approved, NRCS will review the specific language of the new exhibits. You are responsible for all costs associated with preparing the legal adjustment documentation and recording new exhibits.  

Subordination, Modification, Exchange, and Termination

Subordinations, modifications, exchanges, and terminations are more significant changes to a conservation easement. For these types of administration actions, proposed changes must be unavoidable, have a public benefit, and, with the exception of terminations, must not result in a net loss of enrolled acreage and equal or greater conservation functions and values. Administration actions cannot be used to cure a violation of the conservation easement deed. These actions are voluntary real estate transactions between the United States, you, and other parties with an interest in the easement. Approval of an administration action is at the sole discretion of NRCS. Specific criteria and requirements are described in agency policies. 

  • Easement Subordination. NRCS agrees to subordinate all or a portion of its real property rights or interests in an easement to a third party. This is usually used to authorize rights-of-way for utilities or transportation. 
  • Easement Modification. NRCS agrees to adjust the boundaries or terms of a WRE deed that will result in equivalent or greater conservation value, acreage, and economic value. 
  • Easement Exchange. NRCS relinquishes all or a portion of its real property rights or interests in an easement that are replaced by real property rights or interests granted through an easement that has equivalent or greater conservation value, acreage, and economic value. 
  • Easement Termination. NRCS agrees to terminate its rights or interests in an easement or a portion thereof. The termination must address a compelling public need with no practicable alternative. It must also result in equivalent or greater conservation value and economic value to the United States. NRCS is provided compensation for the termination. 

Subordinations, modifications, exchanges, and terminations may be initiated by you, NRCS, or a third-party project proponent—such a private utility corporation, state or federal agency, or a neighbor. You would need to consent to the proposal for NRCS to consider it.

Eminent Domain

A third party, such as an energy pipeline company or state highway agency, may have the authority to exercise eminent domain to obtain ownership of a property. The exercise of eminent domain could terminate your interests in the part of the property that is condemned. The third party would become the landowner for the condemned portion of the property and could request an administration action. This is extremely rare. The United States’ interest would not be affected because property rights held by the United States are generally not subject to taking by eminent domain. NRCS would still have discretionary approval over the requested administration action. In many cases, NRCS can work with you and the project proponent to negotiate a resolution that upholds the purposes of the easement and avoids condemnation.   

Planned infrastructure projects—those with a definitive route—can cause nearby properties to be ineligible for ACEP-WRE enrollment because NRCS funding cannot be used for the purpose of obstructing or preventing known infrastructure projects. 

Agency Review

When making an administration action request for NRCS review, the project proponent pays for all expenses, including analysis and legal and title costs. Analysis usually includes an environmental evaluation, legal survey(s), a Uniform Standard of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP) before and after appraisal, and any due diligence including title reviews. Once a request is submitted, the NRCS State Conservationist can either deny the request or recommend approval to the NRCS EPD Director. The EPD Director will review the recommendation and submitted materials and make a final decision to approve or deny the proposed administration action. Subject matter experts within the agency may be consulted for input on these recommendations. A final decision by NRCS is not subject to appeal.

30-Year Term Expiration

If you have enrolled your land in a 30-year easement or contract, the protection of the restored wetland area will expire. You will have the opportunity, however, to talk to NRCS about options for managing your land after expiration or converting your term agreement into a permanent ACEP-WRE easement. 

Expiration of 30-Year Easement or Contract

When a 30-year ACEP-WRE easement or contract expires, any land use restrictions associated with the easement or contract also end, as well as the right to receive any NRCS benefits associated with the easement/contract such as NRCS assistance to maintain conservation practices. Restored wetlands on the property remain subject to any federal, state, or local wetland protection laws. 

When a 30-year easement expires, you may apply for any USDA conservation programs for which you and your land are eligible. Wetlands conservation requirements would still apply when participating in other USDA programs.  

Converting to Perpetual Easement

At any time, you can apply to extend a 30-year ACEP-WRE easement (or a Wetland Reserve Program easement, the predecessor program) to a permanent easement by submitting an application form, NRCS-CPA-1200 to NRCS. The request can apply to the entire easement area or part of the area. No new acres may be added. Conversions of less than the entire easement area have additional requirements. ACEP-WRE contracts cannot be converted to easements. 

NRCS must determine that the additional protection has significant environmental value, the existing 30-year easement is in compliance based on the most recent monitoring report, and there are no outstanding violations or enforcement issues. NRCS will pay the remaining 25% of the easement value based on the current fair market value of the area being converted using the original value of the land, adjusted by the current geographic area rate cap. 

The new perpetual easement will be recorded using the most current version of Form NRCS-LTP-30, “Warranty Easement Deed in Perpetuity”, and include a clause that addresses the following items:  

  • For a conversion of the entire easement area from a 30-year to a perpetual easement, a clause to effect the change of the original 30- year easement deed to a perpetual easement, identify the current landowners of record, and state the consideration for the conversion.  
  • For a conversion of less than the entire easement area from a 30-year to a perpetual easement, for the portion that will become a permanent easement, the most current version of the “Warranty Easement Deed” must be executed and recorded and include a clause to effect the change of the original 30-year easement deed for the portion of the easement that will be permanent, identify the current landowners of record and state the consideration for the conversion. An easement boundary description and survey for the portion that will be converted to a permanent easement must be attached as an exhibit to the new “Warranty Easement Deed.” The approved clause on the new deed must also identify that the area outside of the exhibit identifying the boundary of the perpetual easement remains subject to the original Warranty Easement Deed. Any portion of the property included in the original 30-year easement but excluded from the area covered by the new extended permanent easement will remain under easement until the expiration date of the original 30-year easement. 


  1. USDA Conservation Compliance Fact Sheet 


Visit American Farmland Trust

Get engaged and receive the information you need right in your inbox.