Wyoming & USDA Formalize Conservation Partnership
On October 17th, 2022 Governor Mark Gorgon and Agricultural Secretary Tom Vilsack signed an agreement that formalized Wyoming and the USDA’s partnership to expand and support conservation efforts for working lands and migratory big game populations. Starting in 2023, the USDA will increase funding and staffing to enhance programs including the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) and the Grassland Conservation Reserve Program (Grassland CRP). These programs will help landowners preserve and maintain habitat across private Wyoming lands to benefit wildlife populations.
The USDA’s EQIP program focuses on providing financial assistance to agricultural producers and forest landowners to promote improved water and air quality, reduce erosion and increase soil health, improve wildlife habitat and mitigate problems caused by drought or weather. There are several different initiatives and plans through the EQIP program depending on availability in each state.
The Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) has two main program branches – the Agricultural Land Easements (ALE) program and the Wetland Reserve Easements (WRE) program. The ALE is primarily focuses on limited non-agricultural uses of working farms and ranches through conservation easements and the WRE is focused on restoring and enhancing wetlands that were degraded from agricultural uses.
The Grassland Conservation Reserve Program is funded to preserve environmentally sensitive agricultural land to protect is from farming or ranching and instead use for conservation benefits. CRP contracts typically last 10 – 15 years and currently more that 3.1 million acres are enrolled in the program.
As part of this new pilot program, producers will be able to combine different programs to meet their unique needs. If this program is successful in Wyoming, the USDA plans to expand this model to other states across the West.
"Wyoming leads the nation in our approaches to conserving wildlife, particularly big game migration. We do that with strong landowner partnerships and recognition that habitat conservation can be done on multi-use lands," said Governor Gordon. "Private landowners have long provided key habitat for wildlife across Wyoming. Offering voluntary funding opportunities to landowners to maintain this valuable space for wildlife is a recognition of their role in conservation."
The USDA hopes that this model program will align with their other conservation efforts under the Working Lands for Wildlife program which focuses on conserving working lands across America to benefit wildlife and rural communities.
Read the full USDA press release here and contact your local USDA office for more information on these programs.