1468.6 Subordination, exchange, modification, and termination.§ 1468.6 Subordination, exchange, modification, and termination.
(a) After an easement has been recorded, no subordination, modification, exchange, or termination will be made in any interest in land, or portion of such interest, except as approved by the NRCS. NRCS may approve such easement administration actions if NRCS determines, in accordance with the sequencing considerations under the National Environmental Policy Act, that -
(1)(i) The subordination, modification, or exchange action results in no net loss of easement acres, and is in the public interest or will further the practical administration and management of the easement area or the program, as determined by the NRCS, or
(ii) The termination action will address a compelling public need for which there is no practicable alternative even with avoidance and minimization, and will further the practical administration and management of the easement area or the program, as determined by the NRCS.
(2) For modification or exchange actions -
(i) There is no reasonable alternative that would avoid the easement area, or if the easement area cannot be avoided entirely, then the preferred alternative must minimize impacts to the original easement area and its conservation functions and values to the greatest extent practicable and any remaining adverse impacts must be mitigated, as determined by NRCS, at no cost to the government,
(ii) The action is consistent with the original intent of the easement and is consistent with the purposes of the program, and
(iii) The action results in equal or greater conservation functions and value and equal or greater economic value to the United States. A determination of equal or greater economic value to the United States will be made in accordance with an approved easement valuation methodology for agricultural land easements under subpart B or for wetland reserve easements under subpart C. In addition to the value of the easement itself, NRCS may consider other financial investments it has made in the acquisition, restoration, and management of the original easement to ensure that the easement administration action results in equal or greater economic value to the United States.
(3) For subordination actions, the action -
(i) Increases conservation functions and values or has a limited negative effect on conservation functions and values;
(ii) Is at no cost to the Government; and
(iii) Notwithstanding paragraph (a)(5) of this section, will only minimally affect the acreage subject to the interest in land.
(4) For termination actions, the action -
(i) Is in the interest of the Federal Government; and
(ii) The United States will be fully compensated for the fair market value of the interest in land including any costs and damages related to the termination.
(5) The easement administration action will not affect more than 10 percent of the original easement area unless NRCS determines that it is impracticable to achieve program purposes on the original easements area, in which case NRCS may authorize a greater percentage of the original easement area to be affected.
(6) The landowner and, if applicable, the agricultural land easement holder agrees to such easement administration action prior to NRCS considering that such easement administration action may be approved.
(b) Easement subordinations or modifications are preferred to easement exchanges that may involve lands that are not physically adjacent to the original easement area. Easement exchanges are limited to circumstances where there are no available lands adjacent to the original easement area that will result in equal or greater conservation and economic values to the United States.
(c) Replacement of easement acres as part of an easement exchange must occur within the same State and within the same eight-digit watershed as determined by the hydrologic unit codes developed by the U.S. Geological Survey.
(d) Where NRCS determines that recordation of an amended or new easement deed is necessary to affect an easement administration action under this section, NRCS may use the most recent version of the ACEP deed document or deed terms approved by NRCS. The amended or new easement deed must be duly prepared and recorded in conformity with standard real estate practices, including requirements for title approval, subordination of liens, and recordation of documents.
(e) Modification or exchange of all or a portion of an interest in land enrolled in ACEP-ALE may not increase any payment to an easement holder.
(f)(1) A termination action must meet criteria identified in this part and are limited to those circumstances where NRCS determines it is in the Federal Government's interest to terminate all or a portion of the interest in the land enrolled in the program, that the purposes of the program can no longer be achieved on the original easement area, or the terms of the easement are no longer enforceable and there are no acceptable replacement acres available.
(2) NRCS will enter into a compensatory agreement with the proponent of the termination that identifies the costs for which the United States must be reimbursed, including but not limited to the value of the easement itself based upon current valuation methodologies, repayment of legal boundary survey costs, legal title work costs, associated easement purchase and restoration costs, legal filing fees, costs relating to the termination, and any damages determined appropriate by NRCS.
(3) At least 90 days prior to taking any termination action, written notice of such termination action will be provided to the Committee on Agriculture of the House of Representatives and the Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry of the Senate.
(g) Insofar as is consistent with the easement and applicable law, NRCS may approve modifications to an easement plan that do not affect provisions of the easement. Easement plans include any conservation plan, WRPO, wetland reserve easement restoration agreements, grazing management plan, habitat management plans, or other plans required as a condition of enrollment. Any easement plan modification must meet this part and must result in equal or greater conservation benefits on the enrolled land.[85 FR 571, Jan. 6, 2020, as amended at 86 FR 8130, Feb. 4, 2021]