What is an agricultural conservation easement?
An agricultural conservation easement (ACE) is a deed restriction landowners voluntarily place on their property as a means of keeping land available for agricultural use by limiting subdivision, non-farm development, and other land uses that are incompatible with farming. Landowners authorize a qualified conservation organization or public agency to monitor and enforce activity restrictions set forth in the easement agreement.
Why have an ACE?
ACE's permanently protect resources such as productive agricultural land, ground and surface water, wildlife habitat, historic sites or scenic views. They keep the land in private ownership and on local tax rolls, and may also provide farmers with several tax benefits including income, estate, and property tax deductions.
How is an ACE created?
The Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP), created by the 2014 Farm Bill and available through the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), provides financial and technical assistance to help conserve agricultural lands and wetlands and their related benefits. Under the Agricultural Land Easements component of the ACEP, the NRCS helps Indian tribes, state and local governments and non-governmental organizations protect working agricultural lands and limit non-agricultural uses of the land. Land eligible for agricultural easements includes cropland, rangeland, grassland, pastureland and nonindustrial private forest land. The Wetlands Reserve Easements component of the ACEP helps to provide habitat for fish and wildlife including threatened and endangered species, improve water quality by filtering sediments and chemicals, reduce flooding, recharge groundwater, protect biological diversity and provide opportunities for educational, scientific and limited recreational activities. Land eligible for wetland reserve easements includes farmed or converted wetland that can be successfully and cost-effectively restored. The application process for ACEP is competitive. To apply, contact the NRCS Fort Wayne Service Center (see link below).