Funding available to restore wetlands

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FARMINGTON — The United States Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service in Maine has nearly $1,000,000 available to protect, restore and enhance wetlands through the Wetlands Reserve Program, announced NRCS District Conservationist Paul Hersey.

Applications are accepted year round. However, applications received by Friday, April 30, will be considered for the first round of funding in 2010. Applications received after this date will be considered in subsequent rounds of funding if funds remain available.

“Maine has received more funding to protect, restore and enhance wetlands than it has in previous years,” said Hersey. “We will be working closely with other partners to ensure that Franklin County’s private landowners are aware of this unique opportunity and they understand the benefits from participating in WRP.”

The Wetlands Reserve Program has been around since the mid 1990s. Over the past 15 years it has become a cost-effective and ecologically successful voluntary wetlands restoration program. The program is an opportunity for many landowners, particularly farmers, who may have land that is poorly drained and difficult to cultivate, landowners who are looking to cut back on farming but don’t want to sell the land or those landowners interested in establishing and protecting prime wildlife habitat.

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The program provides financial incentives to help farmers restore farmland, including pastures, which were once wetlands to create fully-functioning wetlands again. The benefits from selling an easement on the wetland may help farmers shift their field configurations, allowing them to put more resources toward increasing productivity in other areas of the farm.

To enroll in the program, lands that are classified as wetland, or were formerly wetland and are kept mowed or cultivated for agricultural purposes, and forest lands where the wetland hydrology has been altered significantly, are eligible.

Interested landowners should visit the Natural Resources Conservation Service office located at the USDA Service Center, 107 Park St. or call Hersey at 778-4767, ext. 105 to determine eligibility. Additional information on the program is available at www.me.nrcs.usda.gov.

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