US to spend $328M on conservation easements to protect farmlands, grasslands and wetlands

IndustriesAssociated Press

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced $328 million for protecting and restoring farmlands, grasslands and wetlands across the country.

The initiative will buy conservation easements from farmers to help wildlife populations and promote outdoor recreation. The agency selected 380 projects covering 32,000 acres of prime farmland, 45,000 acres of grasslands and 52,000 acres of wetlands.

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The money will come from the new Agricultural Conservation Easement Program. It consolidates three former programs into two — one protecting farmlands and grasslands and one for wetlands.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told reporters Monday it's a popular program. He says the USDA received more than 1,450 applications totaling $546 million covering 345,000 acres. He says the projects selected cover 129,000 acres, with 60 percent being farmland and grassland and 40 percent wetlands.