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Local Work Groups essential to NRCS conservation efforts and success

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Close up of two hands shaking in a wheat field

By Adrian Melendez
NRCS-WA Public Affairs

SPOKANE VALLEY, Wash. - USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) mission is to provide technical, financial and conservation assistance to landowners, operators, and producers in order to assist them in voluntarily conserving and protecting the natural resources on their land. One of the key tools for NRCS to accomplish this mission is through the Local Work Groups (LWGs).
LWGs are made up of community members, conservation district personnel and local NRCS conservationists, who come together to identify and prioritize conservation needs in their communities. NRCS conservationists work closely with LWGs to ensure conservation programs and activities are tailored to meet the specific needs of each local area.
Many state’s LWGs are designated by county. However, in Washington State the LWGs encompass 10 teams across the 39 counties in the state and one LWG for native tribes within the state. The conservation districts lead the organization of the local work groups and annual meetings.
“They're (conservation districts) the ones that are the backbone of local conservation efforts and delivery,” said Nick Vira, State Partnership liaison. “They are the ones who advise the federal agency of what we need to prioritize and endeavor into.”
Nick said that in his opinion the best LWGs are the ones that are most diverse across the spectrum of the community they represent.
“We're looking for, community leaders with natural resource conservation interests, environmental representatives from state, local and tribal governmental groups, non profits, and of course local landowners with conservation concerns,” he said.
Nick continued that the diversity of groups is instrumental to the success of the LWGs and conservation as a whole because NRCS doesn’t necessarily know all the conservation needs of a given community and rely on these groups to help chart the conservation course.
“We need the expertise of those people in the community who have the everyday involvement with the land,” said Nick.
Planning for the 2023 Annual Local Work Group meetings are already currently in the process. To find your LWG and the point of contact you can visit the NRCS-WA LWG page. Dates, times, and locations for the meetings will be posted to the site when they are announced.