The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is extending the sign-up period - until April 10, 2009, - for floodplain easement assistance, a component of the Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) program.

Up to $145 million has been made available to eligible landowners nationwide through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 and includes both technical and financial assistance. This funding will restore frequently flooded land to its natural state; create jobs in rural communities nationwide when landowners establish these floodplain easements; as well as restore and protect an estimated 60,000 acres of flood-prone lands nationwide.

“NRCS wants to ensure landowners have ample time to apply for the program,” said Don Gohmert, NRCS state conservationist for Texas. “This program is part of USDA's plan to mitigate the impact of future flooding by restoring the landscape to its natural hydrology and native vegetation.”

Floodplains generate many public benefits, such as increased flood protection, enhanced fish and wildlife habitat, improved water quality and a reduced need for future public disaster assistance. Other benefits include reduced energy consumption when certain agricultural activities and practices are eliminated and increased carbon sequestration as permanent native vegetative cover is reestablished.

All eligible landowners are encouraged to sign-up for the funding by visiting their local NRCS office. The sign-up, originally announced March 7, will close April 10, 2009. For eligibility requirements landowners should refer to the EWP floodplain easement at www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/ewp/Floodplain/index.html.

More information about NRCS and other conservation programs is available on the NRCS Web site at www.tx.nrcs.usda.gov or at your nearest USDA Service Center.