Land Conservation Programs

Changes were made to conservation programs in the new Farm Bill enacted on February 7, 2014. These programs are administered by USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service.

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Washington County's BUFFER INITIATIVE

Working Lands Initiative

The Wisconsin Working Lands Initiative was included as part of the 2009 – 2011 state budget signed into law by Governor Doyle on June 29, 2009. Three main components of the program include updates to the state’s current Farmland Preservation Program, the ability for farmers and local governments to establish voluntary Agricultural Enterprise Areas, and a state program to help with the purchase of Agricultural Conservation Easements.

For more information regarding the Working Lands Initiative & Credits visit Department of Agriculture, Trade & Consumer Protection

Farmland Preservation Program

This state-mandated, cross-compliance rule was originally adopted by the County Board on August 12, 1986. It requires all landowners receiving a tax credit through this program to maintain cropland soil erosion rates at tolerable levels (as defined by NRCS technical standards). LWCD staff must screen all participants within one year after they receive their first tax credit and develop a conservation plan for all lands. Installation of the planned conservation practices may be scheduled over several years, but annual progress is required. The LWCD is also required to spot check 20% of the program participants each year. More program specifics can be found in the Code book.

Animal Waste Rule - NR 243

This is a DNR regulatory rule that has historically operated on a complaint basis. DNR must investigate complaints and determine if an operation is causing a significant water quality problem. If so, the DNR issues a Notice of Discharge to the landowner, which requires them to adopt animal waste runoff control practices. The owner is directed to the LWCD to obtain technical assistance. The LWCD recommends what practice(s) are needed to solve the problem and will design and supervise the installation of those practices at the request of the landowner. Cost sharing was historically offered through the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP). Changes in the administrative rules will require DNR to actively seek out problem sites versus relying on complaints. DNR will also provide the cost-sharing funds.

Wildlife Damage and Abatement

Since 1991, the LWCD along with 15 other counties has contracted with the USDA- APHIS Horicon office to provide assistance to landowner contending with wild animal pressures. Although abatement measures are emphasized, crop damage (mainly from geese and deer) is also reimbursed. There is a nominal deductible and an annual claim limit of $15,000.00 per landowner. The program is currently supported by a $1.00 fee on all hunting licenses, a $12.00 charge for deer bonus tags, and general revenues from the federal government.

Deer Donation Program (pdf)

Conservation Reserve Program

Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) reduces soil erosion, protects the Nation's ability to produce food and fiber, reduces sedimentation in streams and lakes, improves water quality, establishes wildlife habitat, and enhances forest and wetland resources. It encourages farmers to convert highly erodible cropland or other environmentally sensitive acreage to vegetative cover, such as tame or native grasses, wildlife plantings, trees, filter strips, or riparian buffers. Farmers receive an annual rental payment for the term of the multi-year contract. Cost sharing is provided to establish the vegetative cover practices.

Environmental Quality Incentives Program

Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) works primarily in locally identified priority areas where there are significant natural resource concerns, such as soil erosion, water quality and quantity, wildlife habitat, wetlands, and forest and grazing lands. Priority is given to areas where State or local governments offer financial, technical, or educational assistance, and to areas where agricultural improvements will help meet water quality objectives. Activities must be carried out according to a conservation plan. Priority area proposals are submitted to the NRCS State Conservationist, who selects those areas within the State based on recommendations from the State Technical Committee.

EQIP is one of several Federal, State, and local conservation programs that farmers and ranchers can use to solve their natural resource concerns. EQIP offers financial, educational, and technical help to install or implement structural, vegetative, and management practices called for in 5 to 10 year contracts. These practices which include manure management systems, pest management, and erosion control-help improve and maintain the health of natural resources. Cost sharing may pay up to 75% of the costs of certain conservation practices. Nationally, half of the funding for EQIP is targeted to livestock-related natural resource concerns and the remainder to other significant conservation priorities.

Farm & Ranch Lands Protection Program
(now under Agricultural Conservation Easement Program)

The Farm & Ranch Lands Protection Program provides funds to State, tribal, or local government entities to help purchase development rights to keep productive farmland in agricultural use. Working through their existing programs, USDA joins with State, tribal, or local governments to acquire conservation easements or other interests from landowners. USDA provides up to 50% of the costs of purchasing the easements. To qualify, farmland must: be part of a pending offer from a State, tribe, or local farmland protection program; be privately owned; have a conservation plan; be large enough to sustain agricultural production; be accessible to markets for what the land produces; have adequate infrastructure and agricultural support services; and have surrounding parcels of land that can support long-term agricultural production.

Healthy Forest Reserve Program

The Healthy Forest Reserve Program takes a multiple-resource approach to managing nonindustrial private forest lands by bringing the expertise of State-employed foresters, biologists and private consultants to private landowners to help them prepare natural resource management plans. These plans encourage landowners to become active in planning and managing their forests, greatly increasing the likelihood that the forests will remain productive and healthy, and that social, economic and environmental benefits of these lands will be better realized.

Wetlands Reserve Program (now under Agricultural Conservation Easement Program)

The Wetlands Reserve Program is a voluntary program to restore wetlands. Participating landowners can establish conservation easements of either permanent or 30-year duration or can enter into restoration cost-share agreements where no easement is involved. In exchange for establishing a permanent easement, the landowner receives payment up to the agricultural value of the land and 100% of the restoration costs for restoring the wetland. The 30-year easement payment is 75% of what would be provided for a permanent easement on the same site and 75% of the restoration cost. The voluntary agreements are for a minimum 10-year duration and provide for 75% of the cost of restoring the involved wetlands. Easements set limits on how the lands may be used in the future. Restoration cost-share agreements establish wetland protection and restoration as the primary land use for the duration of the agreement. In all instances, landowners continue to control access to their land.

Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (now under EQIP)

The Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program provides financial incentives to develop habitat for fish and wildlife on private lands. Participants agree to implement a wildlife habitat development plan, and USDA agrees to provide cost-share assistance for the initial implementation of wildlife habitat development practices. USDA and program participants enter into 5 to 10 year cost-share agreements for wildlife habitat development.