The Agriculture Department on Wednesday announced it will use $138 million of Inflation Reduction Act funding to enroll 138 new easements into the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program. 

The ACEP program funds both wetlands easements and agricultural land easements, which prevent farmland from being developed..

The $138 million comes from $1.5 billion in ACEP funding authorized by the Inflation Reduction Act, which will last until 2031. The agency obligated $72 million in IRA funds to help pay for 69 ACEP contracts in 2023, according to data it published online.

Fifty-nine of the new easements focus on restoring native forest, while 18 are meant to protect grasslands from being converted for other uses, according to a press release. Fifteen projects will protect existing native forest habitat, while another 15 will keep agricultural land from being converted to other uses. Five projects will restore grassland habitat.

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The agency "prioritized land that will most reduce, capture, avoid or sequester carbon dioxide, methane or nitrous oxide emissions," according to the press release.

“President Biden’s historic Inflation Reduction Act is enabling us to get a record amount of conservation on the ground, including through conservation easements, which give farmers and ranchers the tools they need to protect sensitive landscapes, like wetlands and grasslands, as well as prime farmland,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said.

The announcements come after the agency has made efforts to streamline its processes for appraising easements, surveying land and certifying partners, according to the press release. 

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