USDA plans to purchase these permanent easements from eligible private landowners and assist with wetland restoration in Glades, Hendry, Highlands and Okeechobee Counties.

The easements will contribute to the connection of public and private lands and help form a conservation corridor from the Kissimmee River to Everglades National Park.

Easements on existing conservation lands provide the large open spaces, food resources and connectivity needed to sustain wide-ranging animals like the federally endangered Florida panther.

Other species found on these lands include the crested caracara, Florida black bear, red-cockaded woodpecker and the whooping crane.

USDA continues to demonstrate its commitment to restoring the Northern Everglades through increased financial and technical assistance to landowners. USDA has provided a total of $189 million in WRP funding during the past two fiscal years to help farmers protect and restore wetlands in the Northern Everglades.

Last fiscal year, USDA obligated $89 million through WRP to acquire easements on almost 26,000 acres of land in the Fisheating Creek Watershed, located in remote Highlands County.

Four landowners on five adjoining ranches enrolled the nearly 26,000 acres into the program, making it one of the largest contiguous easement acquisitions in WRP’s history.

An additional 12,000 acres were acquired through WRP in other counties, bringing the total potential acres acquired since 2010 to more than 60,000.

Working with conservation partners and others, USDA helps communities find local solutions to natural resource issues such as protecting a large-scale ecosystem like the Northern Everglades.

Placing easements on working agricultural land like those announced today helps improve watershed health, the vitality of agricultural lands and aesthetics, and the economies of local communities.

“Our working lands provide abundant food, fuel and fiber and are an essential piece of vibrant and diverse rural communities that are part of the fabric of our nation,” Vilsack said

“Well-managed private lands also support healthy ecosystems that provide clean water, wildlife habitat, recreational opportunities and other environmental services that benefit the public.”

For information about WRP, please visit http://www.nrcs.usda.gov. Click on Programs and Services on the left side of the page. Click on Alphabetical Listing of Programs and scroll down to the Wetlands Reserve Program.