Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) helps you build on your existing conservation efforts while strengthening your operation.
Ranking Criteria for NRCS Programs – Fiscal Year 2023
Any applicant may apply for participation in ACEP, EQIP, CSP, or RCPP. The NRCS State Conservationist or Area Director, in consultation with stakeholders including the State Technical Committee, Tribal Conservation Advisory Councils, and Local Work Groups, has developed the following ranking criteria to prioritize and select applications that best address the applicable program purposes and priority natural resource concerns in Oklahoma.
The NRCS State Conservationist will establish application batching periods and select the highest ranked applications for funding, based on applicant eligibility and the NRCS ranking process. In Fiscal Year 2023, NRCS will use its Conservation Assessment Ranking Tool (CART) to assess and rank all eligible applications for NRCS conservation programs.
Inventory and Assessment in CART
CART is a decision support system designed to provide a consistent, replicable framework for the conservation planning process based on geospatially referenced information, client-provided information, field observations, and NRCS conservation planner expertise. CART is designed to assist NRCS conservation planners as they assess site vulnerability and existing conditions and identify natural resource concerns on a unit of land.
In CART, assessments of existing management and conservation efforts are compared against conservation planning criteria thresholds to determine the level of conservation effort needed to address identified natural resource concerns. The results are then used to inform NRCS conservation planning activities for the client. NRCS also uses CART to consolidate resource data and program information to prioritize program delivery and report outcomes of NRCS investments in conservation.
In general, resource concerns fall into one of three categories for the assessment method used in CART to assess and document a resource concern:
- Client Input/Planner Observation: A streamlined list of options is presented to the planner to document the client input and/or planner observation of the resource concerns present. These observations are compared to the conservation planning criteria thresholds.
- Procedural/Deductive: A large group of resource concerns fall into this category and are assessed using a resource concern-specific tool or a list of inventory-like criteria. Due to variability in State tools, assessment questions and answers will be broad in nature to allow States to more carefully align them with State conditions.
- Predictive: The remaining resource concerns are assessed using a predictive interactive model simulation. The CART systems attempt to replicate the outcomes related to the assessment threshold being met or not compared to the model outputs.
After identifying resource concerns and describing existing conditions, planned conservation practices and activities can be added to the existing condition to determine the state of the proposed management system. Supporting practices that are needed to support primary conservation practices and activities are also identified, but do not add conservation management points to the total.
If the client is interested in financial assistance through an NRCS conservation program, the inventory and assessment information, along with client decisions related to conservation practice adoption, are directly and consistently transferred from the assessment portion of CART to the ranking portion of CART. Based on the transferred assessment information and the conservation practices proposed for implementation, CART identifies the appropriate program ranking pool(s).
Ranking in CART
In general, NRCS program ranking criteria uses the following guiding principles:
- Degree of cost-effectiveness of the proposed conservation practices and activities;
- The level of performance of proposed conservation practices and activities;
- Treatment of multiple resource concerns or national priority resource concerns;
- Magnitude of the environmental benefits resulting from the treatment of resource concerns
reflecting the level of performance of proposed conservation practices and activities; and
- Compliance with Federal, State, local or tribal regulatory requirements with regards to natural resources.
CART uses a set of National Ranking Templates developed for each NRCS program and initiative. The National Ranking Templates contain four parameters that are customized for each program to reflect the national level ranking criteria. The four parameters are:
- Land Uses - NRCS has developed land use designations to be used by planners and modelers at the field and landscape level. Land use modifiers more accurately define the land’s actual use and provide another level of specificity and help denote how the land is managed. Land use designations and modifiers are defined in Title 180, National Planning Procedures Handbook, Part 600.
- Resource Concerns - An expected degradation of the soil, water, air, plant, or animal resource base to the extent that the sustainability or intended use of the resource is impaired. Because NRCS quantifies or describes resource concerns as part of a comprehensive conservation planning process, that includes client objectives, human and energy resources are considered components of the resource base.
- Practices - A specific treatment used to address resource concerns, such as structural or vegetative measures, or management techniques, which are planned and implemented in accordance with applicable standards and specifications.
- Ranking Component Weights – A set of five components comprise the ranking score for an individual land-based assessment. The five components are:
- Vulnerability - Site vulnerability is determined by subtracting the existing condition and existing practice scores from the thresholds. This score is weighted by ranking pool to address the resource concerns prioritized by that ranking pool.
- Planned Practice Effects - The planned practice effect score is based on the sum of the planned practice on that land unit which addresses the resource concern. This score is weighted by ranking pool to address the resource concerns prioritized by that ranking pool.
- Resource Priorities - National and State resource priorities are established to address the most critical land and resource considerations and are based on NRCS national and State priorities identified with input from National, State, and local stakeholders.
- Program Priorities - National and State program priorities are established to maximize program effectiveness and advance program purposes and are based on NRCS national and State priorities identified with input from National, State, and local stakeholders.
- Cost Efficiency – Summation of ‘Planned Practice Points’ divided by the log of the ‘Average Practice Cost’.
NOTE: The points for vulnerability, planned practice effects, and cost efficiency are garnered from the assessment portion of CART.
Oklahoma created State-specific ranking pools within the above-described National Ranking Template parameters. The State ranking pools contain a set of questions that are divided into the following sections – applicability, category, program questions, and resource questions. Ranking pool customization allows States to focus funding on priority resource concerns and initiatives identified at the State level with input from NRCS stakeholders. Each eligible application may be considered for funding in all applicable ranking pools by program.
NRCS Resource Concerns
The following table lists the 47 Resource Concerns NRCS uses during the Conservation Planning process.
- Sheet and rill erosion
- Wind erosion
- Ephemeral gully erosion
- Classic gully erosion
- Bank erosion from streams, shorelines, or water conveyance channels
- Organic matter depletion
- Concentration of salts or other chemicals
- Soil organism habitat loss or degradation
- Aggregate instability
- Ponding and flooding
- Seasonal high-water table
- Drifted snow
- Surface water depletion
- Groundwater depletion
- Naturally available moisture use
- Inefficient irrigation water use
- Nutrients transported to surface water
- Nutrients transported to groundwater
- Pesticides transported to surface water
- Pesticides transported to groundwater
- Pathogens and chemicals from manure, biosolids, or compost applications transported to surface water
- Pathogens and chemicals from manure, biosolids, or compost applications transported to groundwater
- Salts transported to surface water
- Salts transported to groundwater
- Petroleum, heavy metals, and other pollutants transported to surface water
- Petroleum, heavy metals, and other pollutants transported to groundwater
- Sediment transported to surface water
- Elevated water temperature
- Emissions of particulate matter (PM) and PM precursors
- Emissions of greenhouse gasses (GHGs)
- Emissions of ozone precursors
- Objectionable odors
- Emissions of airborne reactive nitrogen
- Plant productivity and health
- Plant structure and composition
- Plant pest pressure
- Wildfire hazard from biomass accumulation
- Terrestrial habitat for wildlife and invertebrates
- Aquatic habitat for fish and other organisms
- Feed and forage imbalance
- Inadequate livestock shelter
- Inadequate livestock water quantity, quality and distribution
- Energy efficiency of equipment and facilities
- Energy efficiency of farming/ranching practices and field operations
Conservation Stewardship Program- CSP
Application received by March 31, 2023 will be considered for funding in FY 2023. Applications selected for funding will be obligated by September 30, 2023.
The following CSP ranking criteria are included in the “Program Questions” section of ranking pools for CSP, with the weighting of each question based on State-level priorities:
- Has the applicant had a CSP terminated in the past 3 years?
- Has the applicant had a CSP contract cancelled in the past 2 years
- Select ONE: At the time of application, the applicant meets:
- 3 to 5 State priority resource concern categories across all land uses included in the operation
- 1 to 2 State priority resource concern categories across all land uses included in the operation
- 4 to 5 State priority resource concern categories across all land uses included in the operation excluding farmstead and associated ag land
- 2 to 3 State priority resource concern categories across all land uses included in the operation excluding farmstead and associated ag land
- 1 to 2 State priority resource concern categories across all land uses included in the operation excluding farmstead and associated ag land
- 3 to 5 State priority resource concern categories on at least one land use included in the operation excluding farmstead and associated ag land
- 1 to 2 State priority resource concern categories on at least one land use included in the operation excluding farmstead and associated ag land
- None of the these apply
1. Select ONE By the end of the contract, the applicant will implement additional conservation activities across the operation that allows the producer to
- Exceed the stewardship threshold for more than 3 additional resource concern categories on at least two land uses
- Exceed the stewardship threshold for 2 to 3 additional resource concern categories on at least two land uses
- Exceed the stewardship threshold for one additional resource concern category on at least two land uses
- Exceed the stewardship threshold for more than 3 additional resource concern categories on one land use
- Exceed the stewardship threshold for 2 to 3 additional resource concern categories on one land use
- Meet the stewardship threshold for 2 to 3 additional resource concern categories on at least two land uses
- Meet the stewardship threshold for one additional resource concern category on at least two land uses
- Meet the stewardship threshold for 2 to 3 additional resource concern categories on one land use
- None of the above apply
Please contact your local office to sign up for CSP.