Title 7

SECTION 1468.32

1468.32 Establishing priorities, ranking consideration, and project selection.

§ 1468.32 Establishing priorities, ranking consideration, and project selection.

(a) When evaluating easements or 30-year contract applications from landowners, NRCS, with advice from the State technical committee, may consider:

(1) The conservation benefits of obtaining an easement or other interest in the land, including but not limited to -

(i) Habitat that will be restored for the benefit of migratory birds and wetland-dependent wildlife, including diversity of wildlife that will be benefitted or life-cycle needs that will be addressed;

(ii) Extent and use of habitat that will be restored for threatened, endangered, or other at-risk species or number of different at-risk species benefitted;

(iii) Protection or restoration of native vegetative communities;

(iv) Habitat diversity and complexity to be restored;

(v) Proximity and connectivity to other protected habitats;

(vi) Extent of beneficial adjacent land uses;

(vii) Proximity to impaired water bodies;

(viii) Extent of wetland losses within a geographic area, including wetlands generally or specific wetland types;

(ix) Capacity of the wetland to improve water quality;

(x) Hydrology restoration potential, which must comprise at least 50 percent of the points for conservation benefits.

(2) The cost effectiveness of each easement;

(3) Whether the landowner or another person or entity is offering to contribute financially to the cost of the easement or other interest in the land to leverage Federal funds;

(4) The extent to which the purposes of this part would be achieved on the land;

(5) The productivity of the land;

(6) The on-farm and off-farm environmental threats if the land is used for the production of agricultural commodities;

(7) Such other factors as NRCS determines are necessary to carry out the purposes of the program.

(b) To the extent practicable, taking into consideration costs and future agricultural and food needs, NRCS will give priority to -

(1) Obtaining permanent easements over shorter term easements; and

(2) Acquiring easements based on the value of the easement for protecting and enhancing habitat for migratory birds and other wetland-dependent wildlife or improving water quality, in coordination with FWS at the local level, as may be appropriate.

(c) NRCS, in consultation with the State technical committee, may place higher priority on -

(1) Certain land types or geographic regions of the State where restoration of wetlands may better achieve State and regional goals and objectives; and

(2) Land that is currently enrolled in CRP in a contract that is set to expire within 1 year from the date of application or land under a CRP contract that is in transition to a covered farmer or rancher pursuant to 16 U.S.C. 3835(f), and such land and is farmed wetland and adjoining land that has the highest wetland functions and values and is likely to return to production after the land leaves CRP.

(d) Notwithstanding any limitation of this part regarding priority ranking, NRCS may enroll eligible lands at any time to encompass total wetland areas subject to multiple ownership or otherwise to achieve program objectives. NRCS may, at any time, exclude enrollment of otherwise eligible lands if the participation of the adjacent landowners is essential to the successful restoration of the wetlands and those adjacent landowners are unwilling or ineligible to participate.

[85 FR 571, Jan. 6, 2020, as amended at 86 FR 8131, Feb. 4, 2021]