Land Use Planning Information>Where to Go for More Help

Where to Go for More Help

Click here to view full size picture The following information is from Living With Michigan's Wetlands: A Landowner's Guide, copyright 1996, Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council

Michigan Programs
Federal Programs
Non-Profit Organizations

Michigan Programs

Michigan's Farmland and Open Space Preservation Act (PA 116 of 1974)
MDEQ, Land and Water Management Division

Michigan's Farmland and Open Space Preservation Act provides tax relief for landowners who agree to enroll their farmland into the program. Farmland enrolled in P.A. 116 can be farmed, but it cannot be developed in any other way. Essentially, P.A. 116 is a conservation easement program administered by the MDEQ to protect farmland. As in federal farmland set-aside programs, the agreements between the individual and the state are for a minimum 10-year period. As wetlands constitute open space, enrolling them allows an agricultural producer to qualify for tax relief. Farmland can be removed from the program before the agreed-upon period at the request of the owner, with financial penalties.

The fines that have been collected from agricultural producers who have withdrawn from the program early can be used to purchase development rights on the farmland. In several instances, these funds have been used to purchase development rights on properties that contained wetlands.

MDNR Nongame Wildlife Fund Grants
MDNR Wildlife Division

The purpose of the Nongame Wildlife Fund Grants is to preserve nongame wildlife species, their habitat, and to increase the public's awareness of these wildlife and plant species. Projects must be compatible with the goals of the Nongame Wildlife Program or specific needs of individual species. Proposals must have a potential to benefit endangered, threatened, or special concern species. Possible activities include surveys, scientific studies, habitat management or protection, and public information and education. No development projects are considered for funding on private land unless they are part of a facility that is open to the public throughout the year.

Individuals, local units of government, educational institutions, and nonprofit organizations are eligible for funding. Grants typically between $200 and $4,000 are awarded. Proposals consistent with nongame wildlife management objectives and with matching funds will receive higher priority.

Local Landowner Assistance Programs
County Soil and Water Conservation Districts

County Soil and Water Conservation Districts coordinate many landowner programs that relate to wetland protection. Conservation Districts are unique local units of government that harness federal, state, and local resources to solve conservation problems. The guiding philosophy of all Conservation Districts is that decisions on conservation problems should e made at the local level, by local people, with technical assistance provided by the government. This philosophy enables them to meet the needs of the communities they serve.

Created to serve as stewards of water and soil resources, Michigan's Conservation Districts take an ecosystem approach to conservation and protection of our resources. Their vision is to help all citizens of their District to have livable communities in harmony with the environment. They have a special role to play in areas where land use change is taking place. Programs carried out by Conservation Districts are as diverse as Michigan's landscape. In southern Michigan, many of the programs deal with the needs of the farm community. In northern Michigan, there is more emphasis on forestry, wildlife, and recreation. Programs of special interest to wetland property owners include watershed management, erosion control, wetland restoration, wildlife habitat management and tree planting. For more information, contact the Soil and Water Conservation District that serves your county.

Federal Programs

Federal Landowner Assistance Programs

In Michigan, federally-funded programs provide valuable assistance to landowners. Many of these programs are administered by district offices of the Natural Resources Conservation Service or other federal agencies. The primary programs that address wetlands are described below.

Agricultural Conservation Program
Farm Services Agency

The Agricultural Conservation Program (ACP) is administered by the state and county offices of the Farm Services Agency (formerly the Consolidated Farm Services Agency and before that the Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service) with technical assistance and program guidance provided by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the U.S. Forest Service, the MDNR Forestry Division, and the Michigan State University Extension Service. The ACP encourages voluntary compliance with federal and state requirements for solving point and nonpoint source pollution on agricultural land. ACP provides 50% to 75% cost-share funds for approved practices providing long term and community-wide conservation benefits. ACP practices can help fund wetlands and riparian area restoration and enhancements range from permanent vegetative cover to agricultural pollutant reductions.

ACP agreements can be for one year or more, depending on the practice. When entering an agreement, the farmer pays the total cost of establishing the approved conservation practices and is then reimbursed for the government's share of the cost, which may be as much as 75% of total cost for annual agreements. The maximum cost-share limitations for annual conservation plans is $3500.

Long-term agreements require the development of a conservation plan by NRCS and approval by the local conservation district and the FSA county office. Lump sum payments in excess of $3500 may be authorized for a long term agreement under certain conditions. Farmers and ranchers may enter into pooling agreements to jointly solve mutual conservation problems. Pooling agreements could be used to restore a wetland covering portions of several properties.

To be eligible, the agricultural producer making an application must own between 10 and 1,000 acres and practices approved for cost-sharing must result in long term and community-wide benefits. The practices should also be those that the farmer or rancher would not, or could not, undertake without financial and technical assistance. Applications must be approved by the FSA County Committee.

Conservation Reserve Program
Farm Services Agency

The Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) is one of the primary conservation programs in the Federal Farm Bill (the Food Security Act of 1985 and as amended by the Good, Agriculture, conservation, and Trade Act of 1990). This program provides an incentive to encourage farmers to enroll highly erodible cropland and or land contributing to a serious water quality problem into the reserve for 10 to 15 years. In return, farmers receive annual rental payments for the land, cost-sharing, and technical assistance to plant vegetation for conservation. The major goals of CRP include reducing soil erosion and sedimentation, improving water quality, maintaining fish and wildlife habitat, and providing support income to farmers. The program is administered by the FSA in cooperation with NRCS, Cooperative Extension Service, MDNR Forestry Division, and county soil and water conservation districts.

Although most CRP lands are classed as "highly erodible," fields often include areas of former wetlands that could be restored. Although CRP funds are no longer available to help restore wetlands on these lands, the landowner may do so at anytime. Non-USDA funds can be used to assist in the restoration, as long as the plans for the restoration are included in the landowner's conservation plan maintained by the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Wetlands Reserve Program
Natural Resources

Conservation Service

The Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) is another important conservation component of the Farm Bill and was authorized by the Good, Agriculture, conservation, and Trade Act of 1990. WRP is a voluntary program offering landowners a chance to receive payments for restoring wetlands. Under WRP, landowners are provided cost-share funds to restore wetlands in return for a conservation easement. Areas under easement can also include existing natural wetland and adjacent uplands deemed necessary to protect the wetlands.

Owners of eligible lands apply for enrollment at their local NRCS or USDA Farm Services Office by declaring their intent to participate during the specified enrollment periods. The NRCS and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) then determine the eligibility of the acres offered. Sites are ranked using a variety of priority factors, including: 1) habitat for migratory birds and other wildlife; 2) wetland functions; 3) location of significance; 4) wetland management requirements; and 5) physical condition of the site.

A Wetland Reserve Plan of Operations (WRPO) is developed for each of the high priority areas. The NRCS, with the assistance of FWS, will help landowners develop the plans Each plan will describe intentions and objectives as to restoration practices needed to accomplish the restoration, landowner requirements for maintaining the restored wetland values, and other details. The acceptable uses of the land after the easement is filed will also be spelled out in detail in the WRPO. No activities may degrade or diminish the wetland functions and values of the land under easement.

After completion and approval of the plan by the agencies and the landowner the landowner may accept the amoung offered by NRCS for the easement. The government's offer will be based on the appraised agricultural value of he land. Between 50%-100% cost-share will be paid for restoring the wetland and adjacent lands. All legal costs associated with recording the easement will also be paid by the government.

The landowners will maintain full control over public access to and use of the WRP easement lands. The WRP easement does not open the areas to public hunting, fishing, or other forms of recreation unless the landowner desires to do so. The landowner will be responsible for maintaining the area and for paying property taxes. As with other conservation easements, the reduction in development potential should reduce the property tax burden. Remember, it is the landowner's responsibility to request the post-easement tax assessment from their local tax assessor. When lands are sold, the easement follows the sale and the new owner assumes the easement obligations.

In Michigan, eligible counties are those that occur in the southern half of the lower peninsula.

Debt Cancellation Conservation Easements
Farm Service Agency

Persons with USDA loans secured by real estate may qualify for cancellation of a portion of their debt in exchange for a conservation easement. Originally administered by the former Farmer's Home Administration, this program is now administered by the Farm Service Agency. Easements may be established on wetlands, marginal cropland, and other environmentally sensitive lands for conservation, recreation, ad wildlife purposes. Although this program is available throughout the state, it has been used by landowners in very few instances. Like when establishing conservation easements with a private organization, property offered for an easement must meet eligibility and desirability requirements.

By participation in the Conservation Easement Debt Cancellation Program, borrowers reduce their USDA debt, thereby improving their overall financial stability. Also borrowers can conserve wildlife habitat and improve the environmental and scenic value of their farm. As with other conservation easements, once a conservation easement is established, the property is subject to the easement for its duration, regardless of who owns the land. New owners of the property will be subject to the same restrictions and retain the same rights as the borrower who originally granted the easement in exchange for the USDA debt reduction.

North American Wetlands Conservation Act
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
MDNR Wildlife Division

The North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) encourages partnerships among public agencies and other interests to 1) protect, enhance, restore and manage an appropriate distribution and diversity of wetland ecosystems and other habitats for migratory birds, fish, and wildlife in North America; 2) maintain current or improve distribution of migratory bird populations; and 3) sustain an abundance of waterfowl and other migratory birds consistent with the goals o the North American Waterfowl Management Plan and international treaty obligations.

The act provided funding for wetland conservation project involving acquisition, restoration, and/or enhancement. Funding is provided through a competitive grants process by the North American Wetland Conservation Council based on recommendations from the migratory Bird conservation Commission. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service coordinate with the council on the NAWCA and can provide assistance to landowners to develop proposals for submission to the council and MBCC. A grant application instruction booklet outlining the above information in more detail is available through the FWS Regional Office in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

North American Waterfowl Management Plan Joint Venture Projects
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
MDNR Wildlife Division

The North American Waterfowl management Plan (NAWMP) is an agreement signed between the United States, Canada, and Mexico to restore waterfowl and other migratory bird populations to levels of the early 1970's by protecting and restoring priority wetland habitats. The plan is implemented through unique partnerships called joint ventures.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service coordinates joint ventures with federal, state, and private agencies, and private individuals that cooperate and pool resources together, including funding, to achieve objective of the plan. Private landowners of wetland significant to waterfowl may receive technical and financial assistance through the variety of cooperative programs undertaken within their geographic area. Landowners (federal, state, group, or individual) with property having significant importance to waterfowl and other wetland-dependent species may be eligible for funding under this program.

Partners for Wildlife
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The Partners for Wildlife program offers technical and financial assistance to landowners who wish to restore degraded wetlands, riparian corridors, streams, and other critical habitats. The program focuses primarily on reestablishment of original natural communities. Special consideration is given to projects that contribute to the objective of the North American Waterfowl Management Plan or that National Wildlife Refuge System, or that contribute to the survival of endangered, threatened, or candidate species, or migratory birds of management concern.

Assistance may take the form of informal advice on the design an dlocation of potential restoration projects, or it may consist of designing and funding restoration projects under a Wildlife Management Agreement with the landowner. Restoration efforts may include, but are not limited to, plugging drainage ditches, installing water control structures, constructing low dikes, fencing riparian corridors, and reestablishing grassland vegetation for nesting cover.

Before funds are spent for project construction, landowners are required to sign a Wildlife Management Agreement through which they agree to leave the habitat restoration project in place for a minimum of 10 years. Longer agreements are desirable and may be required depending on the cost of the project. Landowners and other partners are encouraged to provide cost-share funds or in-kind services for projects.

Forest Stewardship Program/Stewardship Incentive Program
MDNR Forestry Division

The Forest Stewardship Program (FSP) and Stewardship Incentive Program (SIP) were established in the 1990 Farm Bill to help landowners protect and enhance their forest lands and associated wetlands. FSP provides technical assistance to help landowners enhance and protect the timber, fish and wildlife habitat, water quality, wetlands, and recreational and aesthetic values of their property. SIP provides cost-share assistance to private landowners for implementing the management plans developed under FSP. Guidelines for SIP define eight major categories for funding: management plan development, reforestation and afforestation, forest and agroforest improvement, windbreak and hedgerow establishment, riparian and wetlands protection and improvement, fisheries habitat enhancement, wildlife enhancement, and forest recreation enhancement.

FSP and SIP are administered by the State Forester in cooperation with the U.S. Forest Service. The Farm Services Agency (FSA), through state foresters, assists private forest landowners in actively managing their forests and related resources. National program guidelines require wetland and 11 other resource elements to be considered and evaluated as part of teach plan.

The Stewardship Incentive Program provides landowners with financial cost-share assistance to implement completed Forest Stewardship Plans. SIP-6, "riparian and Wetland protection and Improvement" is the cost-share practice for restoring and protecting wetlands and riparian areas. Cost share is authorized for purchase, installation and establishment of plant materials streambank stabilization, fencing and restoration of natural hydrology.

State forestry staff or qualified private consultants work with private landowners to develop a multiuse Forest Stewardship Resource Conservation Plan specifically or their forested properties. These plans outline a course of action that will enhance forest products, wildlife, soil and water quality, recreation, aesthetics, and environmental quality. Existing management plans can usually be modified to meet Forest Stewardship Plan guidelines. Once a forest management plan has been developed and approved, up to 65% of the cost is provided through SIP to fund the plan's projects. Payments to the landowner may not exceed $10,000 per landowner per fiscal year.

Eligible landowners must have an approved Forest Stewardship Plan and own between 12 and 1,000 acres of qualifying land. Authorizations may be obtained for exception of up to 5,000 acres. Landowners must maintain and protect SIO funded practices for a minimum of 10 years.

Federal Watershed Management Initiatives
Natural Resources Conservation Service
MDEQ, Surface Water Quality Division
MDEQ, Land and Water Management Division

There are several federally funded initiatives that promote watershed management planning activities, including the Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Program, Section 319 of the Clean Water Act, and Section 6217 of the Coastal Zone Act Reauthorization Amendments. These programs are designed to provide money to state agencies, Indian tribes, municipalities, or quasi-governmental organizations with authority to carry out, maintain, and operate watershed improvement activities. These programs are most relevant to those landowners who live in watersheds that have received funding under these programs. Landowners in watersheds not funded by these programs may want to consider contacting their county planner, soil and water conservation district staff, or representative of other eligible agencies to encourage them to prepare a funding proposal.

The Natural Resources Conservation Service assists state, local and qualified nonprofit organizations with planning and installing water control and conservation measures in small watershed areas. Projects can be undertaken to restore wetlands and natural stream characteristics throughout a small watershed to improve water quality, wildlife habitat, an general living conditions. Technical assistance, the cost of construction for flood prevention, and cost sharing for other purposes in available. Requests are made through local conservation districts. NRCS assists local sponsors in planning and carrying out measures in authorized project areas. Projects may include wetland protection, flood plain management, and wildlife improvements.

Section 319 of the federal Clean Water Act provides incentives for local units of government to address nonpoint source pollution on a watershed basis. Some activities include:

Outreach activities to increase awareness of nonpoint source problems and solutions
Demonstrations of successful approaches to problems
Financial assistance to develop and implement watershed management plans
Improving the scientific foundation for state nonpoint source programs, such as monitoring protocols to evaluate the effectiveness of nonpoint source controls.

Since wetlands serve many functions that improve water quality and abate impacts of nonpoint source pollution, there is a great potential for wetland protection activities to be integrated into Section 319 programs.

Non-Profit Organizations

Matching Aid to Restore State Habitat (MARSH)
Ducks Unlimited

The MARSH program was instituted in 1985 to develop and protect waterfowl habitat in the United States. This reimbursement program provides matching funds for wetland acquisition and habitat restoration and enhancement in each state based on Ducks Unlimited (DU's) income within that state.

Projects submitted for MARSH funding must significantly benefit waterfowl. Normally, all projects must be on land under the control of a public agency or private cooperator with which DU has an approved memorandum of understanding. Control must be through ownership, lease, easement, or management agreement. Control must be adequate for protection, maintenance, and use of the project throughout its projected life.

The amount of money available to fund MARSH projects in each state is currently based on 7.5% of the sum of DU's income within that state, plus any unused money from the previous year. Accordingly, the MARSH allocation will fluctuate as DU's income fluctuates in each state. DU's goal is to match MARSH funds at least dollar for dollar by private, state, or federal resources.

DU will consider proposals from any public or private conservation agency or group that is : 1) able to execute long-term habitat agreements, 2) capable of delivering and managing the projects proposed, and 3) willing to assume all liability associated with the project. In Michigan, the MARSH program is coordinated through the MDNR Wildlife Division. MARSH funds are also used by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Field Office to cost-share wetland restoration projects.

Michigan's Wildlife Habitat Foundation's Private Wetlands Project
Michigan's Wildlife Habitat Foundation

The Michigan Wildlife Habitat Foundation has an innovative wetland restoration program that involves the use of trained volunteers as well as professional staff. Trained volunteers identify potential wildlife restoration areas and help implement wetland restoration projects designed by professionals. The majority of the work involves blocking small open ditches and removing parts of underground drainage tiles to restore wetland hydrology to drained basins.

This program is conducted on private lands only. Landowners must sign an agreement that they will not reverse activities for 10 years. Although the project is focused in the southern half of Michigan's lower peninsula, it is available throughout the state. Michigan Wildlife Habitat Foundation pays for the cost of wetland restoration activity, but requires a minimal cost-share contribution from the land-owner. Funds are expended on a first-come, first-served basis.

Pheasants Forever Habitat Grants
Pheasants Forever

Pheasants Forever coordinates a cost-share program to support a variety of habitat enhancement projects that raise the carrying capacity for pheasants and other game and nongame species. Applicable habitat enhancement projects include: wetland restorations; wetland enhancements to provide more and better wildlife cover; expansion of native warm season grass planting, food plots, and cool season grass and legume mixtures, especially near wetlands; development of long-term nesting, winter roosting, feeding and brood rearing pheasant (and other species habitats of private lands); and development or enhancement of corridors to connect habitat components.

The program operates in counties where Pheasants Forever chapters exist. Eligible landowners are those that are willing to maintain wetland restoration sites according to federal CRP and WRP guidelines. Food plots cannot be harvested and nesting covers cannot be mowed before August 1 of each year. Woody covers must remain for a minimum of 10 years. Funding applications should be submitted to Pheasants Forever no later than February 28 for their spring meeting and August 1 for their Autumn meeting.

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