The Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP)

The Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) is designed to increase habitat for fish and wildlife while improving water quality. The federal government will share in the cost to restore low-lying areas of cropland to wetlands, and may also purchase development rights to the property. Contracts to restore wetlands may be available for 10 years or the development rights can be sold to the government for a period of 30 years or permanently.

Land Use Cropland or grassland
Type of Program Cost-share payments, Rental agreement OR Easement program
Resource Concern Water quality, Wildlife habitat
Purpose The environmental purpose is to provide fish and wildlife habitat, improve water quality, reduce flooding, recharge groundwater, and protect biological diversity. It also provides opportunities for educational, scientific, and recreational activities.
Landowner Benefits Landowners receive cost-share payments and technical assistance for restoring and protecting wetland values and functions, addressing problems related to farming practices, and enhancing wildlife recreational opportunities. Participants benefit with a reduction in problems associated with farming potentially difficult areas and having incentives to develop wildlife recreational opportunities on the land.
Description There are 3 different kinds of enrollment options for landowners who want to restore degraded or lost wetland habitats. They must be willing to limit the use of the wetlands for a period of years.

  • 10-year agreement – pays 75% restoration cost only.
  • 30-year easement – pays 75% restoration cost and 75% agricultural value.
  • Permanent easements – pays 100% restoration cost and 100% agricultural value.

In every case, the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) continues to assist landowners after a site has been restored by reviewing restoration measures, providing basic biological and engineering advice, and clarifying the technical and administrative aspects of the easement or agreement.

Practices Wetland restoration and wildlife habitat establishment are basic practices.
Costs to Landowner Landowners pay a portion of the costs associated with management activities implemented on the property with any agreement below permanent easement.
Eligibility Landowners must own the property for at least 7 years prior to enrollment with exceptions existing. In general, “wealthy” landowners are barred from participation. The land must be restorable and suited for wildlife benefits and typically contain wetlands (or converted wetlands) that have been or are farmed or in pasture, riparian areas, or restored wetlands that need protection. Eligible land includes cropland or grassland that was used for agricultural production prior to flooding from natural overflow of closed basin lake or pothole. Lands are ineligible if the wetlands were converted after Dec. 23, 1985, or if timber stands were established by other federal incentive programs such as theConservation Reserve Program (CRP).


Contract The contracts are 10-year agreements. The easements can be 30-year or permanent. Although specific land-use practices are limited, landowners retain private ownership of the property.
Other Notes Permanent or 30-year easements recorded only with property deed. The 10-year agreement is not recorded with deed. Consideration to be given to cost-effectiveness, financial contributions by landowner, likelihood of success of easement, offsite environmental benefits, and damages avoided by wetland restoration.
Landowner Initiation
  • Contact the local Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) where you own land.
  • Ask about enrolling land into the Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP).