Grassland Easements


Grassland easements protect both large and small tracts of grass from conversion. They provide critical habitat for migratory birds and other resident wildlife. Private landowners receive a one-time payment for permanently protecting grasslands. After July 15 of each year, the grassland easement may be hayed, mowed, and harvested for grass seed. Grazing is not restricted in any way.

Why protect grasslands?

Grasslands help reduce soil erosion caused by wind and water. They also filter chemicals, thus protecting water supplies. Vegetation such as grass, wildflowers, and shrubs also help trap snow and rain, allowing water to seep into the soil, thereby recharging groundwater. Grasslands also provide forage for livestock. Many wildlife species depend on grasslands for food, shelter, and nesting sites.

Over time, settlement, agriculture, and development have reduced and fragmented the grasslands of North America. Protecting grasslands benefits people and helps ensure that wildlife will be here for future generations to enjoy.

What is a grassland easement?

A grassland easement is a legal agreement signed with the United States of America, through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, that pays landowners to permanently keep their land in grass.

Land protected by a grassland easement may not be cultivated. Haying and mowing must be delayed until after July 15 each year. These restrictions help grassland-nesting species, such as ducks and pheasants, complete their nesting cycle. Grazing is not restricted in any way. No signs are placed on your property.

Does any land qualify for a grassland easement?

No. To qualify for the easement program, property must be located in a county which has been approved for conservation easements and have value to waterfowl and grassland birds. Highest priority lands include large tracts of grass with high wetland densities, native prairie, or lands most likely to be converted to cropland.

What about farm sites, feedlots, etc.?

Existing farm sites and feedlots are excluded from grassland easements. Also, during the easement process, Service staff works with you to exclude any areas that may be developed in the future.

Will a grassland easement affect my eligibility in U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) farm programs?

The easement may limit participation in USDA programs where base acres of cropland are used to determine program eligibility, such as enrollment in the Conservation Reserve Program. Contact your local Farm Service Agency for information regarding eligibility.

How will the grassland easement affect my farming of the protected grasslands?

Farming or cropping is not allowed. Grazing is allowed anytime.

Haying is allowed after July 15 of each year. This gives grassland-nesting wildlife species the opportunity to complete their nesting cycle.

Who controls noxious weeds and pests?

As the landowner, you are responsible for noxious weed and pest control, in accordance with state and local laws. In addition, mowing before July 15 to control weeds is prohibited unless you have prior written approval by the Service.

Will the easement affect hunting and trapping rights on my land?

No. Hunting and trapping rights are not affected by the easement.

Will the easement affect my mineral rights?

No. Subsurface rights are not affected by the easement. Contact the local District manager prior to conducting activities that may inadvertently result in non-compliance with the easement.

Who should I contact with additional questions?

Contact the District office in which your land is located. Contacts can be found in the menu on the left.