1415.4 Program requirements.§ 1415.4 Program requirements.
(a) Except as provided for under § 1415.17, only landowners may submit applications for easements. For rental contracts, applicants must own or provide written evidence of control of the property for the duration of the rental contract.
(b) The easement or rental contract will require that the area be maintained in accordance with GRP goals and objectives for the term of the easement or rental contract, including the conservation, protection, enhancement, and if necessary, restoration of the grassland functions and values.
(c) All participants in GRP are required to implement a GRP management plan approved by NRCS. When an eligible entity holds the GRP easement, NRCS will develop GRP management plans with eligible entities. In cases where a participant receives ranking points on the basis of resource concerns other than grazing land concerns, all such resource concerns will be addressed in an applicable conservation plan.
(d) The easement or rental contract must grant USDA or its representatives a right of ingress and egress to the easement or rental contract area. For easements, this access is legally described by the conservation easement deed and the GRP management plan. Access to rental contract areas is identified in the GRP management plan.
(e) Easement participants are required to convey unencumbered title that is acceptable to the United States and provide consent or subordination agreements from each holder of a security or other interest in the land. The landowner must warrant that the easement granted the United States or eligible entity is superior to the rights of all others, except for exceptions to the title that are deemed acceptable by USDA.
(f) Landowners are required to use a standard GRP conservation easement deed developed by USDA or developed by an eligible entity and approved by USDA under § 1415.17 of this part. The easement grants development rights, title, and interest in the easement area in order to protect grassland and other conservation values.
(g) The program participant must comply with the terms of the easement or rental contract, and comply with all terms and conditions of the GRP management plan and any associated conservation plan or restoration agreement.
(h) Easements and rental contracts allow, consistent with their terms and the program purposes, the following activities as outlined in the GRP management plan:
(1) Common grazing practices, including maintenance and necessary conservation practices and activities (e.g., prescribed grazing; upland wildlife habitat management; prescribed burning; fencing, watering, and feeding necessary for the raising of livestock; and related forage and seed production) on the land in a manner that is consistent with maintaining the viability of grassland, forb, and shrub species common to the locality;
(2) Haying, mowing, or harvesting for seed production subject to appropriate restrictions, as determined by the State Conservationist, during the nesting season for birds in the local area that are in significant decline, or are conserved in accordance with Federal or State law;
(3) Fire pre-suppression, rehabilitation, and construction of firebreaks;
(4) Grazing related activities, such as fencing and livestock watering facilities;
(5) Facilities for power generation through renewable sources of energy production provided the scope and scale of the footprint of the facility and associated infrastructure is consistent with program purposes as determined by USDA through analysis of the potential site-specific environmental effects; and
(6) Other activities that USDA determines the manner, number, intensity, location, operation, and other features associated with the activity will not adversely affect the grassland resources or related conservation values protected under an easement or rental contract. This includes infrastructure development along existing right-of-ways where the easement deed allows the landowner to grant right-of-ways when it is determined by NRCS that granting such right-of-ways are in the public interest, that grassland resources and related conservation values will not be adversely impacted, and the landowner agrees to a restoration plan for the disturbed area as developed by NRCS, but at no cost to NRCS. This also includes undeveloped, passive, recreational uses such as hiking, camping, bird watching, hunting, and fishing as long as such uses, as determined by the grantee, do not impair the grazing uses and other conservation values.
(i) Easement and rental contracts prohibit the following activities:
(1) The production of crops (other than hay), orchards, vineyards, or other agricultural commodity that is inconsistent with maintaining grazing land and related conservation values; and
(2) Except as permitted under a restoration plan, the conduct of any other activity that would be inconsistent with maintaining grazing uses and related conservation values protected under an easement or rental contract.
(j) Rental contracts may be terminated by USDA without penalty or refund if the original participant dies, is declared legally incompetent, or is otherwise unavailable during the contract period.
(k) Participants, with the agreement of USDA, may convert a rental contract to an easement, provided that funds are available and the project meets conditions established by USDA. Land cannot be enrolled in both a rental contract option and an easement enrollment option at the same time. The rental contract will be terminated prior to the date the easement is recorded in the local land records office.
(l) Rental contract participants are required to suspend any existing cropland base and allotment history for the land under another program administered by the Secretary.
(m) Easement participants are required to eliminate any existing cropland base and allotment history for the land under another program administered by the Secretary.