Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced the nation's farmers, ranchers and Indian Tribes enrolled over 272,000 acres in the Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) in fiscal year (FY) 2010.

The FY 2010 enrollment is the highest single-year enrollment in the program's history and is a 52 percent increase over FY 2009 when 179,000 acres were enrolled. There are now more than 2.3 million acres enrolled in WRP nationwide.

"Through this historic enrollment in this proven conservation program, landowners and conservation partners are affirming their commitment to restoring and protecting the nation's wetland resources," said Vilsack. "Wetlands are essential to a healthy environment, and conservation-minded landowners are improving water quality, providing habitat for wildlife, mitigating floods and improving the overall environment for all Americans."

WRP, the federal government's largest wetlands restoration program, provides technical and financial assistance to private landowners and Indian Tribes to restore, protect and enhance wetlands that have been degraded or converted for agricultural uses. More than 80 percent of restorable wetlands are in private ownership. Participation in WRP is voluntary.

Estimated to have covered more than 220 million acres during colonial times, wetlands in the lower 48 states are now less than half that amount. Wetland losses in some states are more than 90 percent. More than 40 percent of federally listed species and over 50 percent of migratory birds require wetland habitats during some portion of their life cycle.

Through this program, marginal farm or ranchland is restored to its natural state. Potential flood damage to farms and ranches is reduced and vital wetland ecosystems are restored and protected.