Long Lake National Wildlife Refuge
Mountain-Prairie Region

Wetland Easements

Why protect wetlands? Wetlands are necessary for the production of waterfowl and they are rapidly disappearing because of an expanding society. Wetlands provide rich and productive habitat for all wildlife, especially waterfowl. Thousands of small wetlands in the Prairie Pothole Region were formed when glaciers scarred the landscape. North Dakota and Long Lake National Wildlife Refuge lie at the center of this region that stretches from Alberta, Canada to central Iowa. Millions of ducks nest in Prairie Pothole wetlands each year. By protecting wetlands, man protects his future and the future of waterfowl in North America.
Wetlands aid in flood and erosion control by holding the water on the land, reducing peak runoff and flooding conditions. Water held in wetlands also has a chance to seep underground and recharge water supplies.

In the late 1950's, concern over rampant U.S. Department of Agriculture subsidized wetland drainage catalyzed the conservation community. The program to save The Wetlands was authorized by Congress on August 1, 1958. It is financed by receipts from the sale of Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamps, commonly known as Duck Stamps. Sportsmen throughout the nation are sponsoring this project when they purchase these stamps.

A wetland easement is a legal agreement signed with the United States of America, through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), that pays landowners to permanently protect wetlands. Wetlands covered by an easement cannot be drained, filled, leveled, or burned. When these wetlands dry up naturally, they can be farmed, grazed, or hayed. Wetlands covered by an easement are mapped and a copy of the easement and maps is sent to the landowner. No signs are placed on the property and the easement will not affect hunting or mineral rights.
Property having wetlands of value to waterfowl and is in a county which has been approved for the easement program can qualify for a wetland easement. These easements are permanent (perpetual) between the Service and all present and future landowners. The Service obtains title evidence from the abstracter at no cost to the landowner. The title is checked to determine that all owners of record have signed the easement. Service attorneys will review the case and furnish an opinion of title. If the opinion points out any title defects, we will assist the landowner in correcting these title defects. The easement will then be accepted by the Service. This process usually take about six to nine months.
Once the easement has been accepted, the landowner receives a letter by certified mail informing him that the easement has been accepted and is being recorded at the county courthouse. The Service will also send a copy of the fully executed easement at that time.

To determine payment, a Service appraiser estimates the value of the easement based on a fair market value appraisal. This appraisal is based on the affect of the easement on your property. The appraisal is then approved by a Service review appraiser. The payment is made in a single lump-sum payment in the form of a check from the U.S. Treasury for the full amount specified in the easement. Payment is usually made within six to nine months after the easement has been signed. The Service pays to record the easement and have the abstracter bring the title evidence up to date prior to payment.

Easement wetlands are part of the National Wildlife Refuge System. Currently, in the States of North Dakota, South Dakota, and Montana, there are over 1,200,000 wetland acres protected permanently.

Partners for Fish and Wildlife restores drained pothole wetlands, which makes them eligible for wetland easement protection. About 20 percent of the wetlands restored through Partners for Fish and Wildlife become permanently protected at the landowner's request.

Last updated: August 8, 2011