The amount of acreage enrolled in the voluntary Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) jumped by the largest amount ever in FY 2010, according to the Dept. of Agriculture. The WRP is designed to restore and protect wetlands, and lead to improvements in areas such as water quality, wildlife habitat, flood control, and recreational opportunities.
Land owners signed up to protect 272,762 acres, which in one year adds about 12% of the total acreage covered during the 15-year history of the program. Funding for the 1,414 contracts totaled $592,562,106. In addition, USDA says that restoration of already-enrolled lands totaled 129,000 acres in FY 2010.
The sharp increase in enrolled acreage occurred in large part due to promotional efforts by USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service officials, says spokeswoman Sylvia Rainford,  202-720-2536.
- "USDA Announces Unprecedented Enrollment in Voluntary Effort to Restore the Nation's Wetlands,"  Nov. 12, 2010.
- Main WRP page  (includes links to data for 2003-2009. Also includes a link to the 2010 Federal Register notice soliciting applications, which provides some basic information on the program, including criteria used to select winning applicants.)
- 2010 data, by state  (MS Word document).
For more extensive information on how the program works, check each state's Web site. Here are a couple of more informative ones, according to Rainford.
To cover specific winning projects for 2010 and earlier years, contact the following sources. Keep in mind that just 6 months ago, USDA was declining to identify specific recipients of such funds (see TipSheet of May 26, 2010 ), making it difficult to cover this program, and to evaluate whether it is effective. Whether or not that attitude has changed, USDA's policy on disclosure of these awards of taxpayer money might be part of your coverage.