The U.S. Dept. of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Wetlands Reserve Program has agreed to pay approximately $89 million to acquire permanent easements on nearly 26,000 contiguous acres in Florida’s Northern Everglades Watershed. In some sections, the government will restore and improve the wetlands; in others, it will recharge the aquifers and ensure the wetlands remain free of development and available for bird migration. Once the restoration is complete, officials expect to see improvement in the quality of the water draining into the Everglades and nearby habitat within two years. The voluntary Wetlands Reserve Program worked with four landowners and local organizations to secure easements on five ranches along Fisheating Creek in remote Highlands County, about 130 miles south of Orlando. It is the largest easement acquisition in the history of the program, says Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan.