The Art of Conservation Planning
America's farmers and ranchers are
the working conservationists on private and tribal lands in our country.
The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is the federal agency
that, for over 60 years, has had the privilege of providing technical assistance
(TA) to these
true conservationists as they make a voluntary commitment to apply conservation
practices on their private lands.
The conservation applied on private lands provides benefits to all citizens
by reducing soil erosion, improving water quality and quantity, enhancing
wildlife habitat, maintaining open spaces and aesthetic landscapes, and
improving the health of the land for future generations.
The NRCS recognizes that private landowners must have a positive economic return
to stay in business and apply conservation on the land. Economic productivity and
environmental stewardship are compatible, inclusive, and dependent.
The foundation, purpose, and mission of the NRCS is to help landowners treat every
acre of their private property according to its needs and within its capability. That
treatment includes a balance between the land use for economic return and protecting its
ability to be productive from generation to generation.
Sometimes we refer to Resource Management Systems, or Conservation Systems,
or environmental sustainability. Whatever the name, it is as simple or complex
as necessary to meet the conservation objectives of the farmer or rancher.
We sell conservation -- that is our business. We have an objective of
achieving a conservation system on the land that is tailor made to the desires
of the landowner, to each field, and to the operating unit.
The key to understanding TA in conservation planning is to know
that the final decision maker is the private landowner. He or she will make the
decision as to what, how much, or if any conservation at all will take place on
The process is continuous and remains flexible, is implemented over time,
uses a common sense approach, and is achieved only when the landowner is ready,
willing, and able to move forward.
NRCS Conservation Technical Assistance
The NRCS TA is based on the collective experience of all of the
men and women of our team. They possess, and have at their disposal, thousands
of hours of experience in soil and water field-tested conservation approaches
and techniques to resolve resource concerns. The foundation under that ethic is
one of understanding our customers' needs and being a conservationist who speaks
for the land. NRCS recognizes all of the complexities inherent in achieving the
objective of conservation, which include commitment to the voluntary
approach, recognizing that the landowner is the
A Technical Assistance Scenario
NRCS Community Relationships
The NRCS employees live in South Dakota communities. They often work with
more than one generation of the ranch family. A trust and mutual respect develops.
The NRCS employees and local landowners grow and learn together about conservation over
the years. Employees have an ethic and commitment for the land and for the success of
the producer, both as an agricultural operator and as a conservationist.
The Conservation Partnership
The NRCS TA is
provided primarily through local conservation districts (CDs). This is key because it recognizes
the need for local leadership and decision making in achieving a conservation program.
The CDs are authorized under state law to provide local
leadership for soil and water conservation. Board members are locally elected or appointed
and are essential in providing the leadership needed to ensure locally led community
and landowner-driven conservation programs. Conservation districts set the
priorities locally for when and how NRCS TA is provided.
A Conservation Ethic
Private landowners are the
working conservationists of America. They are the decision makers in a voluntary process
of TA. They decide what, how much, where, and when in their
interaction with NRCS.
The NRCS employees are champions for conservation. They are conservation
Working together on the land, the NRCS and landowners tailor make
conservation plans to meet specific needs through
Landowner data and information remains private and confidential; it is
protected by law.
Conservation Practice Standards
The NRCS conservation practice standards (CPSs) provide guidance for applying
conservation technology on the land and set the minimum level for acceptable
application of the technology.
The NRCS issues National CPSs in its National Handbook
of Conservation Practices (NHCP). National standards for each practice are
National Handbook of Conservation Practices (NHCP)
Notices – Updated or new National conservation practice standards are
transmitted by notices to the National Handbook of Conservation Practices.
Copies of the most recent NHCP notices are available.
Conservation Practice Standards – The current National CPSs are available, both as MS-Word documents and in PDF
For additional information, please contact Gerald Jasmer, SRC, (605) 352-1234
or by e-mail at