The United States Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has announced the availability of $17.5 million in financial and technical assistance nationwide to help eligible conservation partners voluntarily protect, restore and enhance critical wetlands on private and tribal agricultural lands.

“USDA has leveraged partnerships to accomplish a great deal on America’s wetlands over the past two decades,” said Christine Clarke, NRCS Massachusetts State Conservationist. “This year’s funding will help strengthen these partnerships and achieve greater wetland acreage in Massachusetts and throughout the nation.”

Funding will be provided through the Wetland Reserve Enhancement Partnership (WREP), a special enrollment option under the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program’s Wetland Reserve Easement component. It is administered by NRCS. WREP was created through the 2014 Farm Bill and was formerly known as the Wetlands Reserve Enhancement Program.

Under WREP, states, local units of governments, non-governmental organizations and American Indian tribes collaborate with USDA through cooperative and partnership agreements. These partners work with willing tribal and private landowners who voluntarily enroll eligible land into easements to protect, restore and enhance wetlands on their properties. Projects can range from individual to watershed-wide to ecosystem-wide.

Proposals must be submitted by July 31 to Dan Wright, Assistant State Conservationist for Programs, USDA-NRCS Massachusetts State Office, 451 West Street, Amherst, MA 01002.