Title 7

SECTION 1468.30

1468.30 Program requirements.

§ 1468.30 Program requirements.

(a) General. (1) Under the ACEP-WRE, NRCS may purchase wetland reserve easements from eligible landowners who voluntarily cooperate to restore, protect, and enhance wetlands on eligible private or Tribal lands. A 30-year contract enrollment option is also available for acreage owned by Indian Tribes.

(2) To participate in ACEP-WRE, a landowner must agree to the implementation of a WRPO, the effect of which is to restore, protect, enhance, maintain, manage, and monitor the hydrologic conditions of inundation or saturation of the soil, native vegetation, and natural topography of eligible lands.

(3) NRCS may provide financial assistance through an easement restoration agreement for the conservation practices and eligible activities that promote the restoration, protection, enhancement, maintenance, and management of wetland functions and values and associated habitats.

(4) For ACEP-WRE enrollments, NRCS may implement such conservation practices and eligible activities through an agreement with the landowner, a contract with a vendor, an interagency agreement, or a cooperative agreement. The specific restoration, protection, enhancement, maintenance, and management actions authorized by NRCS, may be undertaken by the landowner, NRCS, or its designee.

(5) The duration of a wetland reserve easement may be either perpetual, 30-years, or the maximum duration allowed by State law. The duration of a 30-year contract on acreage owned by Indian Tribes is 30 years.

(b) Acreage limitations. (1) No more than 25 percent of the total cropland in any county, as determined by the FSA, may be enrolled in CRP and ACEP-WRE, and no more than 15 percent of the total cropland in the county may be subject to an easement under ACEP-WRE.

(2) The limitations in paragraph (b)(1) of this section do not apply to areas devoted to windbreaks or shelterbelts after November 28, 1990, or to cropland designated by NRCS with “subclass w” in the land capability classes IV through VIII because of severe use limitations due to factors related to excess water such as poor soil drainage, wetness, high water table, soil saturation, or inundation.

(3) NRCS and the FSA will concur before a waiver of the 25-percent limit of paragraph (b)(1) of this section can be approved for an easement proposed for enrollment in ACEP-WRE. Such a waiver will only be approved if the waiver will not adversely affect the local economy, and operators in the county are having difficulties complying with the conservation plans implemented under 16 U.S.C. 3812.

(c) Landowner eligibility. To be eligible to enroll in the ACEP-WRE, all landowners must be in compliance with the highly erodible land and wetland conservation provisions in 7 CFR part 12. Persons or legal entities must be in compliance with the Adjusted Gross Income Limitation provisions at 7 CFR part 1400 and:

(1) Be the landowner of eligible land for which enrollment is sought;

(2) Provide any documentation required by NRCS as necessary to determine eligibility; and

(3) For easement applications, have been the landowner of such land for the 24-month period prior to the time of application unless it is determined by NRCS that:

(i) The land was acquired by will or succession as a result of the death of the previous landowner or pursuant to the terms of an existing trust,

(ii) The ownership change occurred due to foreclosure on the land and the owner of the land immediately before the foreclosure exercises a right of redemption from the mortgage holder in accordance with State law, or

(iii) The land was acquired under circumstances that give adequate assurances, as determined by NRCS, that such land was not acquired for the purposes of placing it in the program. Adequate assurances will include documentation that the change of ownership resulted from circumstances such as:

(A) The prior landowner owned the land for 2 years or more and transferred ownership amongst members of the immediate family (father, mother, spouse, children, grandparents, or grandchildren),

(B) A completion of a contract for deed entered into 24 months or more prior to the application date,

(C) The new landowner had leased the land for agricultural purposes for 24 months or more prior to the application date, or

(D) The easement area is a portion of a larger property where the majority portion was acquired for agriculture purposes.

(4) Agree to provide such information to NRCS as the agency deems necessary to assist in its determination of eligibility for program benefits and for other program implementation purposes.

(d) New landowner. When a parcel of land that has been accepted for enrollment into the ACEP-WRE is sold or transferred prior to NRCS purchase of the easement, NRCS will cancel the application or agreement to purchase and remove the acres from enrollment unless the new landowner meets the requirements of paragraph (c) of this section and accepts the terms and conditions of enrollment. The new landowner must submit required documentation for NRCS review and execute any required agreements or contracts. The decision to approve and execute an enrollment transferred prior to closing is at NRCS's discretion.

(e) Land eligibility. (1) Only private land or acreage owned by an Indian Tribe may be considered for enrollment into ACEP-WRE.

(2) NRCS will determine whether land is eligible for enrollment and whether, once found eligible, the lands may be included in the program based on the likelihood of successful restoration of such land and resultant wetland functions and values merit inclusion of such land in the program when considering the cost of acquiring the easement and the cost of the restoration, protection, enhancement, maintenance, management, and monitoring.

(3) Land will only be considered eligible for enrollment in the ACEP-WRE if NRCS determines that the enrollment of such land maximizes wildlife benefits and wetland function and values.

(4) To be determined eligible, NRCS must also determine that such land is -

(i) Farmed wetland or converted wetland, together with adjacent lands that are functionally dependent on the wetlands, if such land is identified by NRCS as:

(A) Wetlands farmed under natural conditions, farmed wetlands, prior converted cropland, commenced conversion wetlands, farmed wetland pastures, and agricultural lands substantially altered by flooding so as to develop and retain wetland functions and values; or

(B) Former or degraded wetlands that occur on lands that have been used or are currently being used for the production of food and fiber, including rangeland and forest production lands, where the hydrology has been significantly degraded or modified and will be substantially restored; or

(C) Farmed wetland and adjoining land enrolled in CRP that has the highest wetland functions and values and is likely to return to production after the land leaves CRP; or

(D) A riparian area along a stream or other waterway that links, or after restoring the riparian area, will link wetlands protected by the ACEP-WRE easement, another easement, or other device or circumstance that achieves the same objectives as an ACEP-WRE easement.

(ii) Cropland or grassland that was used for agricultural production prior to flooding from the natural overflow of -

(A) A closed basin lake, together with adjacent land that is functionally dependent upon it, if the State or other entity is willing to provide a 50-percent share of the cost of the easement; or

(B) A pothole and adjacent land that is functionally dependent on it; and

(C) The size of the parcel offered for enrollment is a minimum of 20 contiguous acres. Such land meets the requirement of likelihood of successful restoration only if the soils are hydric and the depth of water is 6.5 feet or less.

(5) If land offered for enrollment is determined eligible under this section, then NRCS may also enroll land adjacent or contiguous to such eligible land together with the eligible land, if such land maximizes wildlife benefits and contributes significantly to wetland functions and values. Such adjacent or contiguous land may include buffer areas, created wetlands, noncropped natural wetlands, riparian areas that do not meet the requirements of paragraph (e)(4)(i)(D) of this section, and restored wetlands, but not more than NRCS, in consultation with the State technical committee, determines is necessary to maximize wildlife benefits and contribute significantly to wetland functions and values. NRCS will not enroll as eligible adjacent or contiguous land any constructed wetlands that treat wastewater or contaminated runoff.

(6) To be enrolled in the program, eligible land must have sufficient access and be configured in a size and with boundaries that allow for the efficient management and monitoring of the area for program purposes and otherwise promote and enhance program objectives as determined by NRCS.

(f) Enrollment of CRP lands. Land subject to an existing CRP contract may be enrolled in ACEP-WRE only if the land and landowner meet the requirements of this part and the enrollment is requested by the landowner and agreed to by NRCS. To enroll in ACEP-WRE, the CRP contract for the property must be terminated or otherwise modified subject to such terms and conditions as are mutually agreed upon by FSA and the landowner.

(g) Ineligible land. The land specified in paragraphs (g)(1) through (7) of this section is not eligible for enrollment in the ACEP-WRE:

(1) Converted wetlands if the conversion was commenced after December 23, 1985;

(2) Land established to trees under the CRP, except in cases where the land meets all other WRE eligibility criteria, the established cover conforms to WRE restoration requirements and NRCS specifications, an active CRP contract will be terminated or otherwise modified upon purchase of the WRE easement, and any additional criteria NRCS uses to determine if enrollment of such lands would further the purposes of the program;

(3) Lands owned by the United States other than held in trust for Indian Tribes;

(4) Lands owned in fee title by a State, including an agency or a subdivision of a State or a unit of local government;

(5) Land subject to an easement or deed restriction which, as determined by NRCS, provides similar restoration and protection of wetland functions and values as would be provided by enrollment in ACEP-WRE;

(6) Lands where the purposes of the program or implementation of restoration practices would be undermined due to onsite or offsite conditions, including, but not limited to -

(i) Risk of hazardous materials or petroleum products either onsite or offsite;

(ii) Permitted or existing rights of way, either onsite or offsite, for infrastructure development;

(iii) Adjacent land uses, such as airports, that would either impede complete restoration or prevent wetland functions and values from being fully restored; or

(7) Land which NRCS determines to have unacceptable exceptions to clear title or legal access that is encumbered, nontransferable, restricted, or otherwise insufficient.