James E. Tillman, Sr., State Conservationist for the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Georgia has announced that the NRCShas established a cut-off date for applications seeking financial assistance through the USDA Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP).

Although participants can apply at any time, in order to be considered for WRP funding during fiscal year 2012, applications must be received by Oct. 28, 2011.

Applications received after Oct. 28, 2011 will be deferred to the next funding cycle. Applications received in NRCS offices will be evaluated and ranked according to levels of environmental benefits pending available funds.

Participants in WRP voluntarily limit future use of their land, but retain private ownership.

Landowners benefit by receiving financial and technical assistance in return for protecting wetlands, reducing problems associated with farming potentially wet and difficult areas, and developing wildlife and recreational opportunities on their land.

Wetlands benefit the Nation by providing fish and wildlife habitat; improving water quality by filtering sediments and chemicals; reducing flooding; recharging groundwater; protecting biological diversity; as well as providing opportunities for educational, scientific, and recreational activities.

The program offers three enrollment options:

• Permanent Easements — a conservation easement in perpetuity. USDA pays 100 percent of the easement value and 100 percent of the restoration costs.*

• 30-Year Easement — an easement that expires after 30 years. USDA pays up to 75 percent of the easement value and up to 75 percent of the restoration costs.*

• Restoration Cost-Share Agreement — an agreement to restore or enhance the wetland functions and values without placing an easement on the enrolled acres. USDA pays up to 75 percent of the restoration costs.

* USDA pays costs associated with recording the easement, including legal services, recording of easement, and boundary surveys,

No easement shall be created on land that has changed ownership during the preceding 7 years.

Eligible acres are limited to private and Tribal lands. Easement values are based upon a Geographic Area Rate Cap (GARC) which is valued each year by an independent contractor who performs a market analysis to estimate values of lands that typically enroll in WRP.

NRCS publishes the GARC rates after approval.

Georgia landowners can learn more about conserving natural resources by contacting NRCS Georgia through USDA Service Centers or by visiting the NRCS Georgia homepage at http://www.ga.nrcs.usda.gov.