Soil and Water Conservation

Johnston County, North Carolina

Wetlands Reserve Program

Program Purpose

The Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) is a voluntary program offering landowners the opportunity to protect, restore, and enhance wetlands on their property. The program was authorized under the Food Security Act of 1985, as amended by the 1990 and 1996 farm bills.

In North Carolina, approximately 20,000 acres have WRP easements at this time.


Key Features

WRP offers three options for landowners to protect, restore, and enhance wetlands and associated uplands:

  1. permanent easements
  2. 30-year easements
  3. 10- year restoration cost-share agreements.

In all cases, the landowner retains ownership and responsibility for the land. The landowner controls the access to the land (no public access is required); the right to hunt, fish, trap, or other recreational uses; and may sell or lease the land enrolled in WRP. In addition, the landowner may request other uses which are compatible with protecting and restoring the wetland.

WRP provides many additional benefits for the community - better water quality, enhanced wildlife habitat, reduced soil erosion, reduced flooding, and better water supply.

Technical and financial assistance for WRP is provided by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (USDA-NRCS) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Additional technical assistance for WRP in North Carolina is also provided through a cooperative agreement with Ducks Unlimited.


2001 Funding

In 2001, North Carolina has about $1,500,000 available for WRP. WRP is available to landowners in all 100 counties of North Carolina.

USDA-NRCS administers WRP, in consultation with the Farm Service Agency (USDA-FSA) and other Federal agencies. Funding for WRP comes from the Commodity Credit Corporation.

Cost Sharing

Under WRP landowners receive a payment for the easement, as well as a cost-share payment for restoring the wetland. The payments from WRP are as follows:

  • Permanent easements - USDA pays 100% of the cost to restore the wetland, the legal costs to establish the easement, and a payment for the easement equal to the lesser of a county-based rate cap, the appraised agricultural value, or the amount offered by the landowner.
  • 30-year easements - USDA pays 75% of what would be paid for a permanent easement, 100% of the legal costs, and 75% of the restoration costs.
  • 10 year restoration cost-share agreements - USDA pays 75% of the cost of restoring degraded wetlands and associated uplands.


Who Is Eligible

All landowners who own eligible land are eligible for participation in WRP cost-share agreements. Landowners must own the land for at least one year to be eligible for a WRP easement.

To be eligible, land offered for WRP must be restorable and be suitable for wildlife benefits, and may not be Federal land, a wetland that was drained after December 23, 1985, or certain CRP contract lands. Wetlands in a natural condition are not eligible for enrollment in WRP, except as buffers to a restoration site.


How And When To Apply

Applications for WRP are accepted year-round. Periodically, applications are evaluated and ranked. The most environmentally and economically valuable wetlands are restored with the funds that are available.

For additional information, potential applicants should contact the local offices of :

  • Natural Resources Conservation Service (USDA-NRCS)
  • Soil and Water Conservation District

(Information provided by: USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service)

Page last updated: July 14, 2022