NB_300_22_40 - NB 300-22-40 LTP - 2018 Farm Bill Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) Program US-Held Easement Application through Obligation Guidance
NB 300-22-40 LTP - 2018 Farm Bill Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) Program US-Held Easement Application through Obligation Guidance
National Bulletin: 300-22-40 Date: May 26, 2022
Subject: LTP - 2018 Farm Bill Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) Program US-Held Easement Application through Obligation Guidance


 
Purpose.  To notify States of the release of the RCPP Warranty Easement Deeds and related Exhibits to be used for easements to be acquired and held by the United States through RCPP (RCPP US-held easements) pursuant to a RCPP Programmatic Partnership Agreement (PPA) entered into under the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (2018 Farm Bill). To provide guidance on the procedures and requirements for the RCPP US-held easement activities the States and the Easement Programs Division (EPD) Easement Acquisition Branch (EAB) are authorized to perform at this time as set forth in this National Bulletin (NB). This guidance supplements the RCPP regulation (7 CFR Part 1464), RCPP policy at Title 440, Conservation Programs Manual (CPM), Part 531, easement common provision policy at 440-CPM-527, and related agency directives.

At this time, States and EAB are not authorized to complete the acquisition of an RCPP US-held easement and will be notified in forthcoming guidance when such activities may be undertaken.
 
Expiration Date.  September 30, 2023
 
Background.  The RCPP regulation at 7 CFR Part 1464 provides authority for NRCS to acquire easements held by the United States as an eligible activity (RCPP US-held easements). RCPP US-held easements are implemented through the execution of program contracts entered into directly between NRCS and the landowners for the purchase of a conservation easement on eligible land. RCPP US-held easements must be associated with a valid RCPP PPA that includes US-held easements as an eligible activity. The PPA budget must account for all of the costs associated with each RCPP US-held easement.

The RCPP policy published in 440-CPM-531 sets forth general requirements for RCPP US-held easements and the easement common provisions policy in 440-CPM-527 sets for the requirements applicable to all easement acquired by the United States. However, these manuals do not currently contain all of the policy, forms, and exhibits needed for States and EAB to fully implement RCPP US-held easements. 
 
Explanation.  This NB provides States and EAB the guidance and authorization to implement the first portion of the RCPP US-held easements workflow and sets forth the requirements, procedures, and responsible parties for the activities that may be undertaken at this time. This NB also includes references to the related regulations, policy, guidance, forms, and exhibits that are also applicable to RCPP US-held easements and must also be followed in the implementation of the activities authorized in this NB.

This NB and its attachments provide an example workflow for RCPP US-held easement enrollment and provide specific guidance on:

  • The relationship between the conservation values, deed selection, land eligibility, and the PPA;
  • Accepting and processing individual landowner applications (including providing program information to interested landowners and gathering required information from the landowners using the template letters referred to in this NB);
  • Submitting the RCPP deed review package for preliminary NHQ approval of the RCPP Warranty Easement Deed;
  • Completing and documenting initial eligibility determinations (landowner, land, administrative);
  • Assessing and ranking applications;
  • Obtaining easement valuation;
  • Selecting eligible applications;
  • Enrolling eligible applications through the execution of Form NRCS-CPA-1303, “Agreement for the Purchase of Conservation Easement” and obligating funds;
  • Cost, payment, and contribution limitations and requirements; and
  • The extent of RCPP US-held easement that may be undertaken at this time and the parties responsible for the steps identified including State NRCS staff, EAB, EPD, and OGC.

The following related forms have been published and posted to eForms.

  • Form-NRCS-CPA-1303, “Agreement for the Purchase of Conservation Easement for the Regional Conservation Partnership Program” (RCPP APCE)
  • Highly Restrictive RCPP US-held Easement:
  • Form NRCS-CPA-1300, “RCPP Warranty Easement Deed for Protection of Conservation Values”
  • Moderately Restrictive RCPP US-held Easement:
  • Form NRCS-CPA-1301, “RCPP Warranty Easement Deed for Conservation Uses”
  • Form NRCS-CPA-1301-Exhibit E
  • Minimally Restrictive RCPP US-held Easement:
  • Form NRCS-CPA-1302, “RCPP Warranty Easement Deed for Working Lands”
  • Form NRCS-CPA-1302-Exhibit E.

The following template letters have been updated for use with RCPP US-held easements and published to edirectives in the following locations:

  • Easement Common Provisions manual at 440-CPM-527-Y, “Exhibits”
  • Sample Letter Providing Information to Applicant for a Conservation Easement held by the United States (ACEP-WRE; EWPP-FPE; HFRP; 2018 Farm Bill RCPP US-Held Easement)
  • Checklist of Information to be Provided by the Landowner to NRCS upon Application for a Conservation Easement held by the United States (ACEP-WRE; EWPP-FPE; HFRP; 2018 Farm Bill RCPP US-Held Easement)
  • RCPP manual at 440-CPM-531-U, “Exhibits”
  • Sample Letter of Tentative Selection for an RCPP US-Held Easement.
Forthcoming guidance will provide the States and EAB the policy, requirements, procedures, forms, and exhibits needed to complete next portion of the workflow in the acquisition of RCPP US-held easements that occurs after the RCPP APCE has been executed, including but not limited to: finalizing title and due diligence investigations; completing the boundary survey, and as applicable the baseline documentation report; completing all exhibits to the RCPP Warranty Easement Deed; completing the RCPP plan and as applicable restoration designs; and closing and recording the RCPP US-held easement.

Beginning in June 2022, EPD will provide training on the information in this NB through a series of prerecorded information modules available on the EPD SharePoint site and as needed on net conferences and webinars. 
 
Contact.  After reading the RCPP regulation and this NB, NRCS staff may submit questions regarding RCPP US-held easements to RCPP18Easements@usda.gov. For submission of RCPP Warranty Easement Deed for required preliminary National Headquarters (NHQ) review and approval prior to obtaining an appraisal or proceeding with application selection, EAB must upload the deed review package to the Deed Review Tool (DRT) on the EPD SharePoint site. 
 
 

 /s/

CLINT EVANS
Acting Deputy Chief for Programs

 
 
Attachment A - Procedure for Administration of 2018 Farm Bill RCPP US-held Easements
Attachment B - Table for Comparison of RCPP Warranty Easement Deeds for RCPP US-held Easements
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