Funds available to restore South Dakota

Assistant State Conservationist for Programs Jeff Vander Wilt has announced that South Dakota’s USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service is making approximately $4 million available to help protect and restore sensitive lands.

The funding is provided through the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program, created to protect water resources, wildlife habitat, and encourage private landowners to maintain land for farming.

Applications are accepted on a continual basis. All eligible applications received prior to Feb. 5, 2021, will be considered for funding.

The program helps streamline the conservation easement options into two primary components: a wetland reserve component, where the NRCS works directly with landowners to restore and protect their agricultural wetlands, and a working lands component, where the NRCS provides assistance to partners with farmland protection programs to purchase agricultural land easements.

Wetland reserve easements allow landowners to successfully restore, enhance, and protect habitat for wildlife on their lands, reduce damage from flooding, recharge groundwater, and provide outdoor recreational and educational opportunities.

Eligible landowners can choose to enroll in a permanent 30-year easement.

Applicants also have the option to enroll with reservation of grazing rights. Under this component, the landowner reserves the additional right to graze, following an NRCS approved grazing management plan.

Agricultural land easements not only protect the long-term viability of the nation’s food supply by preventing conversion of productive working lands to non-agricultural uses, they also support environmental quality, wildlife habitat, historic preservation, and protection of open spaces.

State and local governments, nongovernmental organizations, and Native American Tribes that have farmland or grassland protection programs are eligible to partner with NRCS and individual landowners to protect farmland through easements.

To learn more about ACEP and other technical and financial assistance available through SD NRCS, visit