Agriculture Deputy Secretary Chuck Conner has announced that 11 states will receive nearly $35 million in fiscal year 2007 to fund 12 special projects designed to protect threatened and endangered species and enhance wildlife habitat on wetlands.

"These projects will offer states more flexibility in securing funds to enroll interested landowners in the Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP)," Conner said. "They will help at-risk plant, animal, fish and insect species and help us meet President Bush's goal of improving, restoring and protecting nearly three million acres of wetlands by 2009."

The special project funding supplements a state's normal WRP allocation. Through this initiative, states can obtain funding for projects that exceed their normal allocation. It also allows states to fund large-scale projects in defined geographic areas that include partner involvement and contributions.

Special project funding covers easement acquisition costs such as appraisals, surveys and closing, and restoration costs. Restoration costs will be paid in the fiscal year that a wetland restoration plan has been carried out.

WRP, administered by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), helps landowners protect, restore and enhance wetlands on their property. This voluntary program strives to achieve the greatest wetland functions and values and optimum wildlife habitat on every enrolled acre.

Using technical and financial assistance provided by NRCS, landowners will enroll an additional 17,329 acres into WRP this fiscal year through these special projects.

To select the projects, NRCS sought proposals from all states in March 2007. One category of proposals involved watershed-scale projects with multiple landowners and another category includes a large project by a single landowner.

NRCS received 18 proposals from 13 states. Project reviewers selected 12 proposals in the two categories that furthered the WRP goal, including improved threatened and endangered species and/or their habitat, or assistance affecting small and limited resource producers or tribes.

Many of these projects are public-private partnerships with state, local and tribal governments, private institutions, other non-governmental organizations and individuals.

Below is a listing of the approved projects and total NRCS funding:

• Florida Turkey Creek Ranch Parcel 1 — $5,569,456.

• North Carolina Machapungo LLC — $2,183,119.

• Maryland Corsica River — $470,147.

• Massachusetts Edgewood Bogs — $1,490,163.

• Pennsylvania Eastern Spadefoot Toad Project — $275,138.

• New Hampshire Old Mill Road Reserve — $1,211,856.

• Idaho Frank Scarborough — $338,588.

• Iowa Lower Cedar and Iowa Rivers — $3,418,789.

• Iowa Missouri River — $2,207,648.

• Minnesota Reinvest in MN Partnership — $3,740,738.

• Missouri Little River Drainage District — $9,477,120.

• Nebraska Lower Missouri River — $4,366,238.

For more information about the Wetlands Reserve Program, please visit http://www.nrcs.usda.gov.

NRCS has helped private landowners and managers conserve their soil, water, and other natural resources for more than 70 years. Employees provide technical assistance based on sound science that is suited to a customer's specific needs.