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Wetland restoration program sign-up is under way

The Douglas Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) are announcing a RIM-WRP partnership sign-up that began April 20 and runs through June 5, 2009.

This program offers competitive payment rates for landowners to enroll in a program to restore wetlands that have been drained and have a history of being used for agricultural production.

The program is a local-state-federal partnership that combines the state's Reinvest in Minnesota (RIM) Reserve conservation easement program with the USDA Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP).

Combining these two easement programs allows state funds to leverage federal funds that are available through the Federal Farm Bill. Funding for this partnership is through the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR).

Restoring wetlands on privately owned lands provides many public benefits, such as enhancing wildlife habitat, improving water quality and reducing potential flood damage in targeted areas.

"Minnesota received 20 percent of the federal WRP funds that were available nationwide through the WRP program in 2008, so we are developing a good reputation for success compared to other states," said Mark Dybdal, district conservationist. "The key to success is the effective outreach to landowners that is being done by local SWCDs, along with other conservation partners, NRCS, Ducks Unlimited, Pheasants Forever, and the Minnesota Waterfowl Association."

The state funding is expected to be provided from the constitutionally dedicated outdoor heritage fund, based on a recommendation of the Lessard Outdoor Heritage Council.

Details of the RIM-WRP Partnership:

•To leverage federal funds that are available until the end of the federal fiscal year, the RIM-WRP signup period is from April 20 to June 5, 2009.

•Interested landowners should contact their local Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) or Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) staff at their local USDA Service Center.

•Eligibility is statewide, but priority is given to areas of Minnesota that have experienced the greatest wetland losses.

•Competitive payment rates have been established for this partnership using township average land values. Contact your local SWCD or NRCS field office to determine your payment rate per acre by township.

The Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources is the state's administrative agency for soil and water conservation districts, watershed districts, metropolitan watershed management organizations, and county water managers. The agency's mission is to improve and protect Minnesota's water and soil resources by working in partnership with local organizations and private landowners.

The Mission of the Natural resources Conservation Service is to provide USDA technical leadership, working in partnership with local, state, and other federal conservation agencies and organizations, to help people conserve, improve and sustain our natural resources.