USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has issued the final rule for the Grassland Reserve Program (GRP), which defines requirements for participants and incorporates changes to program implementation requested by the public. The final rule can be viewed at http://www.regulations.gov.

"We have lost more than 21 million acres of ranchland and pastureland to development over the past 25 years," said NRCS Chief Dave White. "GRP helps to retain agricultural lands ensuring healthy and diverse ecosystems that benefit the landowner and the surrounding community while also providing wildlife habitat."

The final rule addresses public comments on various program definitions, wind power, native species, landowner contributions, long-term management funding, ranking priorities, state-level priorities and the terms and conditions of GRP deeds.

GRP is a voluntary program that helps landowners restore and protect grassland, rangeland, pastureland, scrubland, and other lands, and provides assistance for rehabilitating grasslands. The program supports working grazing operations, enhancement of plant and animal biodiversity, and protection of grassland and land containing shrubs and forbs under the threat of conversion.