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Ecological Sciences Overview

ECS Florida pictures

Florida NRCS' Ecological Sciences (ECS) is responsible for carrying out the agency's mission as it pertains to ecological sciences in the delivery of technical assistance and programs to USDA clients. ECS is responsible for maintaining the National Planning Procedures Handbook and the Field Office Technical Guide, as well as individual discipline manuals and handbooks used in conservation planning and technical assistance delivery in Florida. The principal functions of ECS are to ensure: 1)  that conservation planning provided to USDA clients meet agency standards, 2) that conservation planning addresses quality criteria for soil, water, air, plants and animals, 3) that social and economic considerations are addressed, 4) that environmental and cultural resource laws are observed, and 5) that agency and partner organization field staff are adequately trained to perform these functions. 

ECS Mission Statement

“Providing tools, techniques, and other technical information that assists our customers in meeting their natural resource conservation goals and objectives.”

ECS Performance Objectives

  • Develop, improve, and maintain technical guides and minimum standards for efficient and effective delivery of agency program and technical assistance.
  • Interpret policy and develop processes that assist our customers achieve local, state, and national goals.
  • Provide training and technical support related to ecological sciences and conservation planning that “help those, who help people help the land.”

ECS consists of a multidisciplinary team that includes an agronomist, agricultural economist, wildlife biologist, GIS specialists, plant materials specialist, cultural resource specialist, range management specialist, plant materials center manager, and wetland specialist. The ECS team is directed by the State Resource Conservationist (SRC). ECS provides leadership, training and technical oversite on conservation planning procedures, methods, and techniques. ECS ensures quality assurance on all conservation planning applications and that state-of-the-science technology transfer is provided to USDA clients to achieve effective conservation planning and practice implementation.

  • Agronomy - The definition of Agronomy is the art and science of crop production. Crop production is very diverse across the state from the Panhandle to the Florida Keys. The major crops in Florida are cotton, peanuts, and small grains in the Panhandle Region. Watermelons, vegetables, and ornamental crops in the North Central Region. Vegetables, Nurseries, and Citrus in the Central Region. Sugarcane, Vegetables, and Tropical Fruits in the Southern Region.
  •  Cultural Resources - Florida archeological sites range from large, prominent prehistoric mounds, historic forts, and plantations, to smaller sites, such as a small scatter of artifacts that represent temporary encampments of Native American people.  Regardless of size or complexity, all archeological sites have the potential to tell us something about people and environments of the past. Archeological sites and potential impacts to these sites, along with other cultural resources such as historic buildings, are considered among the resource concerns addressed in the NRCS planning process.
  • Economic Resources  Contact: Agricultural Economist
  • Electronic Field Office Technical Guide - FOTG for Florida: - The Field Office Technical Guide (FOTG/eFOTG) is the primary technical resource for NRCS field staff to address natural resource conservation problems and to conduct conservation planning and program implementation. The eFOTG can be accessed on the internet at http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/national/technical/fotg and consists of 5 sections:

                Section I: General Resource References
                Section II: Natural Resource Information
                Section III: Quality Criteria
                Section IV: Conservation Practice Standards
                Section V: Conservation Practice Physical Effects

  • Forestry & Agroforestry: The Florida NRCS staff works with private landowners in a voluntary effort to maintain or enhance forest and grazed forest value on private land. NRCS conservation practice standards meet or exceed established Florida forestry best management practices. Florida staff, together with our partners and technical service providers, strives to assist landowners in implementing forestry programs and in establishing NRCS forestry conservation practices that not only meet the client needs, but also ensure sustainability and health of Florida’s forest resources.  Contact: State Biologist.
  • Maps, Imagery, and Spatial Data Resources - Florida NRCS staff is currently developing and compiling various geographic data layers in digital form. These layers include digital orthophoto quadrangle (DOQ), digital raster graphs (DRG), soils, administrative and political boundaries, transportation, wetlands, and strategic habitat conservation areas. Additional data sets such as watershed boundaries, Global Positioning System (GPS) data, digital photographs of land features will be available soon. Contact:  GIS/GPS Coordinator
  • Toolkit Training  -  Contact: GIS/GPS Coordinator
  • Plant Materials - Brooksville Plant Materials Center
  • Range and Pasture - Florida’s rangelands consist of natural plant communities dominated by grasses, grass like plants, forbs, or shrubs. Florida’s rangelands include the savannas of the flatwoods and sandhills, most coastal and inland marshes, and wet and dry prairie grasslands.  Originally, Florida had over 14 million acres of rangeland.  Due to land conversion for housing developments, high intensity agriculture, and industry, Florida’s rangelands have declined to less than 7 million acres. See also Grazing Lands Conservation Initiative (GLCI). Contact:  State Rangeland Management Specialist.
  • Wildlife Biology - The Florida NRCS staff works with private landowners in a voluntary effort to maintain or enhance wildlife production and value on private land. NRCS develops wildlife habitat evaluation procedures, conservation practice standards and specifications, as well as other technical resources to help improve and maintain habitat conditions for wildlife. Florida staff, together with our partners and technical service providers, strives to assist landowners in implementing wildlife programs and to establish NRCS conservation practices that not only meet the client needs, but also ensure sustainability and health of Florida’s terrestrial and aquatic wildlife. Contact: State Biologist

Florida Technical Contact

Henry Burkwhat, State Resource Conservationist, (352) 338-9543