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Residents may lose wetlands funding

By Eason Franklin
The Lowndes Signal

Some Lowndes County property owners may not receive federal funding for wetlands from the government.

All five members of the Lowndes County Commission have signed a letter to the National Resource

Conservation Service (NRCS) to temporarily suspend the Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) from being used in the county until further information about the wetlands can be studied.

“We felt like a lot of property designated as wetlands weren‘t really wet,” said Commission Marzett Thomas. “We were concerned that it may be land that can be build on.”

No decisions on the issue were made at the May 10 meeting. Thomas said the commission is waiting until the May 24 meeting to hear from concerned citizens who attended the last meeting, but were not on the agenda.

Members of the National Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) gave a presentation to explain the program to the commission on May 10.

They said that Lowndes County landowners were paid over $20,000 for participation in the WRP last year.

The WRP is part of the Federal Farm Bill of 2008 and is a voluntary program that works to restore, enhance and protect wetlands in exchange for restoring the designated land.

Property owners sell an easement on their property for a period of 30 years and the program provides funding for landowners to plant trees on that land.

Easements are based on 15 county groupings then values are further determined by land use, such as non-irrigated cropland, irrigated cropland and range-hay land/pasture.

The NRCS pays the full amount of easement recording fees, charges for abstracts, title insurance and survey and appraisal fees.

Property that has degraded or converted wetlands and may have a high probability for restoration is likely eligible, or existing wetlands if they are ecologically important.

Wetlands are habitats for threatened and endangered wildlife, they reduce flooding and filter sediments, improving water quality among many other things.