Unidentified Wetlands Owners in 22 States Get USDA Funds

May 26, 2010

About 75,000 acres of wetlands in 22 states and Puerto Rico are expected to gain better protection in the near future. These lands are the target of about $175 million allocated by the US Dept. of Agriculture, according to a May 14, 2010, announcement by the agency.

The press release notes the dollar amounts awarded to each state, but does not identify the properties or owners. USDA spokeswoman Sylvia Rainford, 202-720-2536, says that the agency is not allowed to identify the specific recipients of these tax funds that are authorized via the 2008 Farm Bill, and funneled through the Natural Resources Conservation Service's (NRCS) Wetlands Reserve Program.

To press this lack-of-transparency issue, the best starting point likely will be the wetlands coordinator for each state's NRCS program. This year's recipients are in AL, AR, CA, FL, GA, IA, IN, KS, KY, LA, MN, MO, MS, NC, NE, NH, OR, PR, SC, SD, TN, TX, and WI.

The winning landowners retain ownership of their property, but must either apply a conservation easement to their property in order to retain its wetlands traits, or provide some matching funds that are used along with the USDA funds to restore wetlands functions.

Owners of a total of about 2.2 million acres have already received funds through this program. NRCS officials say they don't track on a national basis how funds are used in each state, though some states may do this within their boundaries. A starting point for finding out more about past projects, seeing whether they have performed as intended, and evaluating the overall track record of the program, is: