Washington, D.C. - U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural
Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Chief Bruce Knight today
announced agricultural wetland net gains of about 263,000 acres
between 1997 and 2003.
“America’s farmers and ranchers are protecting
and restoring wetlands at unprecedented rates,”
said Knight. “Between 1997 and 2003, agricultural producers
across the nation achieved an average net gain of 44,000 acres of
wetlands each and every year. Producers who participate in USDA
programs have proven themselves good stewards of the land and NRCS
local offices are working closely with them to improve our
The results are based on new data in the NRCS National Resources
Inventory (NRI), an annual statistical survey of natural resource
conditions and trends on nonfederal land in the 48 contiguous
Nationally, there are 111 million wetland acres on nonfederal
lands with most located in the eastern half of the United States,
particularly in the Great Lakes states, the Southeast and the
Wetland gains have been most prevalent in the central part of
the nation where there are extensive agriculture operations and
the highest level of participation in conservation programs
authorized by the 2002 Farm Bill.
The NRI data show that since 1997 annual wetland losses on all
lands have been on a decline, while annual agricultural wetland
gains have been increasing. Between 1997 and 2001 wetland annual
gain was 33,000 acres per year. Between 2001 and 2003 the annual
loss declined to 30,000 acres while the annual gain nearly doubled
to 66,000 acres.
|Net Wetlands Change Due
to Agriculture, 1997–2003
||Total Net Change
||Annual Average Net Change
|1997 - 2001
|2001 - 2003
|1997 - 2003
In keeping with USDA’s conservation compliance
obligations, NRCS annually randomly selects one percent of
producers nationwide to monitor for compliance with the highly
erodible lands and wetlands conservation provisions. Additionally,
the USDA Office of Inspector General provides a toll-free
“hotline” where individuals can report noncompliance at:
800-424-9121. For additional information on reporting USDA program
violations go to: http://www.usda.gov/oig/hotline.htm
USDA data show very few instances of noncompliance with the
wetlands programs and highly erodible lands provisions. NRCS uses
an internal web-based system for compliance reports that provides
immediate delivery to each field office and allows tracking
progress, violations and findings by county on a real time basis.
This web-based system has been in use since December 2004.
In order to continue improvements for accuracy in reporting, NRCS
has developed a more representative sample of tracts,
significantly increased sample size, and modified sample
methodology to include only agricultural lands involved in
wetlands programs. Violations in wetlands programs are
consistently and extremely low with more than 95 percent of
participants in compliance of program rules and regulations.
||Random Sample Tracts *
||Wetland Tracts Non-compliance
Approximately 4,000 tracts are added to the random sample
for prior year variances, etc.
* These tracts have totaled between 4.5 million and 5
million acres annually.
On Earth Day 2004, President Bush announced an
aggressive new national goal, moving beyond a
policy of “no net loss” of wetlands, to having
an overall increase of wetlands in America each year.
The President’s goal is to create,
improve and protect at least three million
wetland acres over the next five years in order to
increase overall wetland acres and quality.
To help achieve this goal, NRCS provides voluntary,
incentive-based conservation programs to help private landowners
protect and restore wetlands.
Depending on their particular goals, farmers and
ranchers can choose from a variety of voluntary programs including
the Wetlands Reserve Program, Wetlands Reserve Enhancement
Program, Environmental Quality Incentives Program, Wildlife
Habitat Incentives Program and Conservation Technical Assistance.
NRCS also provides technical assistance to the
Conservation Reserve Program through USDA’s Farm Service Agency.
For more information contact the USDA Service Center nearest you
or visit our website at http://www.usda.nrcs.gov