Program Goal:

The Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) is a voluntary federal program that provides technical and financial assistance to help landowners restore, protect and enhance wetlands, including adjacent areas important to their function, through easements and restoration cost-share.

Program Description:

There are four types of WRP enrollment options:

  1. Permanent Easement: A conservation easement in perpetuity held by NRCS. Cost share is available to carry out restoration plans.
  2. 30-Year Easement - An easement held by NRCS that expires after 30-years and includes cost-share to offset a portion of the restoration costs.
  3. Restoration Cost-Share Agreement - A 10-year agreement to restore or enhance wetlands without placing an easement on the enrolled acres. NRCS pays a portion of the restoration costs plus maintenance.
  4. Wetlands Reserve Enhancement Program - Leverages non-Farm Bill dollars and is subject to criteria in specific geographic regions

Landowner Eligibility:

Participants must own the land for at least the 7 years prior to enrollment for the easement options. However, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) may make an exception if the land was not acquired for the purpose of putting it into WRP or if it is of significant environmental value. Eligibility is based on the amount of income derived from different sources. Applicants, including land trusts, cannot receive benefit from USDA conservation programs if their annual adjusted gross income for non-farm income exceeds $1,000,000 ($2,000,000 for a married couple) unless at least two-thirds of their total adjusted gross income is derived from farming, ranching, and forestry operations.

Land Eligibility:

Lands that can be restored to wetlands -- cropland, pastureland and hayland.

Lands enrolled in CRP that are highly likely to be returned to production at the end of the CRP contract are eligible for this program. CRP lands that have timber stands or that were converted to trees are not eligible for this program.

Cost-Share Information:

As described above, WRP offers four different enrollment options for private landowners: Permanent easement, 30-year easement, restoration cost-share agreement, and wetlands reserve enhancement program.

For information regarding easements, please see the Payments section below.

Restoration cost-share information: The total amount of annual payments a landowner or legal entity receives for restoration cost-share agreements cannot exceed $50,000 per year - per participant, not per project. If you have multiple projects or properties enrolled in WRP, you will receive no more than $50,000 for all projects combined in a single year. Participants can use other non-USDA conservation program funds, including state and federal, to match WRP cost-share. Funded activities must comply with WRP contract and, together with USDA funds, cannot exceed 100 percent of the total actual cost of restoration. If they do, NRCS will reduce payments proportionately.

Payment Information:

The appropriate payment method depends on which of the four enrollment options you select.

  • Easement Payment Distributions - If the permanent or 30-year easement is valued at $500,000 or less, payment is distributed in one lump sum or in up to 30 annual payments per the request of the participant. Easements valued at greater than $500,000 must have at least five and no more than 30 annual payments.
  • Restoration Cost-Share Limits - The total amount of annual payments a landowner or legal entity receives for restoration cost-share agreements can not exceed $50,000 per year per participant, not per project. Easement compensation - NRCS bases compensation for permanent and 30-year easements on whichever of the following is the lowest: (1) fair market value of the land according to the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practices or an area-wise market analysis; (2) applicable geographic area rate cap, or (3) landowner's offer.

Signup Information

Enrollment in Wetland Restoration Program is competitive and applications are accepted on a continuous basis.

Ranking and project selection period occur one or more times per year and are announced on the state Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Service Center or on the NRCS state website. States can place higher priority on certain geographic regions of the state where restoration will help achieve state or regional goals.

NRCS must give priority to acquiring permanent rather than short-term easements and easements with habitat value for migratory birds and other wildlife. Higher priority may also be given to offers that:

  1. provide higher conservation value,
  2. are most cost-effective for the environmental benefits gained,
  3. leverage federal funds with additional financial contributions from the landowner or other third party,
  4. best achieve the purpose of the program,
  5. have lower on-farm and off-farm threats such as development of nearby land; and
  6. voluntarily accept a lesser payment than NRCS offers.

Additional Resources

Visit the Virginia NRCS website

Click here to read about the benefits of wetlands and the importance of protecting them.