The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service works with willing sellers to acquire land or interests in land that has significant value for wildlife. Wetlands are a high priority habitat in this program, which is carried out within established boundaries identified by the FWS and approved by Congress. Although it may enter into other arrangements, in California the FWS usually acquires either conservation easements or full title to land (full-title acquistions are also called "in-fee" or "fee- simple" acquisitions). In spring 1994, the Fish and Wildlife Service's efforts in acquiring conservation easements in the state were focused on the Central Valley; elsewhere in the state, fee-simple acquisitions tended to be preferred. Fee-simple acquisitions are also an option within the Central Valley.
How the program works
Conservation easement: In buying the farming and development rights of valuable wetland habitat from willing sellers, the FWS will pay approximately 50 percent of fair market value for undisturbed wetlands, and up to 60 percent for wetlands previously modified for farming. The landowner is not required to manage the property to participate in the program, but has the option to participate in compatible cost-share programs for habitat restoration. Further, while land brought under easement through this program cannot be farmed, it may be leased for hunting. The FWS reserves the right to flood property enrolled in the program to provide waterfowl habitat.
Fee-simple: Landowners interested in selling to the FWS will receive full fair market value for land within designated acquisition boundaries, which tend to surround National Wildlife Refuges.
Conservation easements: The Fish and Wildlife Service is working to expand the program, but as of spring 1994 it was limited to parts of Butte, Colusa, Glenn, Merced, and Sutter counties. For more information regarding the Northern Sacramento Valley, contact easement biologists at the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge, (916) 934-2801; for information about the program in the Northern San Joaquin Valley, contact easement biologists at the San Luis National Wildlife Refuge, (209) 826-3508.
Full-title: Within the Central Valley, the contacts are the same as those listed for conservation easements. Landowners elsewhere in the state can contact the nearest National Wildlife Refuge.