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Creek with well-vegetated bank near Harrison, Montana.

Shields River National Water Quality Initiative Project

Apply by: October 27, 2023

The Shields River watershed received special funding as part of the National Water Quality Initiative (NWQI), which targets conservation work in watersheds to improve water quality.


Project Description

The Shields River Watershed Water Quality Planning Framework and Sediment TMDLs report by the Montana Department of Environmental Quality identified three major sources of sediment delivery to the Shields River. These included sediment derived from adjacent roads and road crossings, sediment delivered from stream and river bank erosion, and sediment delivered from uplands. This initiative will work to reduce sediment and agricultural related nutrient loads and improve riparian function in the Shields River watershed.

Who Can Participate?

Farmers and ranchers located in targeted hydrologic subunits of the Shields River watershed in Park County, Montana, are eligible to apply for assistance through the Shields River National Water Quality Initiative.

Applicable Conservation Practices


342 Critical Area Planting
635 Vegetated Treatment Area
462 Precision Land Forming
558 Roof Runoff Structure
560 Access Road
362 Diversion
351 Water Well Decommissioning
561 Heavy Use Area Protection
575 Trails and Walkways
382 Fence
516 Livestock Pipeline
642 Water Well
620 Underground Outlet
614 Watering Facility
533 Pumping Plant
500 Obstruction Removal
770 Livestock Confinement Facility

Prescribed Grazing System

642 Water Well
516 Livestock Pipeline
614 Watering Facility
355 Water Well testing
382 Fence
528 Prescribed Grazing
574 Spring Development
512 Forage and Biomass Planting
550 Range Planting
315 Herbaceous Weed Control
578 Stream Crossing
533 Pumping Plant

Reduced Till Cropping System

329 Residue and Tillage Management, No Till/Strip Till/Direct Seed
345 Residue and Tillage Management, Reduced Till
340 Cover Crop
449 IWM
590 Nutrient Management
595 Integrated Pest Management
587 Structure for water Control
428 Irrigation Ditch Lining
430 Irrigation Pipeline
442 Sprinkler System
533 Pumping Plant


390 Riparian Herbaceous Cover
393 Filter Strip
395 Stream Habitat Improvement and Management
601 Vegetative Barrier
612 Tree/Shrub Establishment
580 Streambank and Shoreline Protection
380 Windbreak/Shelterbelt Establishment

Detailed descriptions of these conservation practices can be found in the Field Office Technical Guide, Section 4 - Practice Standards and Supporting Documents.

When to Apply

Program applications are accepted on a continual basis. However, NRCS establishes application ranking dates for evaluation, ranking and approval of eligible applications. Applications received after the ranking date will be automatically deferred to the next funding period. See Montana Programs and Application Dates.

Local Ranking Questions

NRCS uses these questions to evaluate eligible applications for this project and to prioritize applications for potential funding.

  1. Does the PLU have a high or very high nitrogen risk rating and will the application include practice(s) to lower the rating?
  2. Will the application include practices that will reduce sedimentation onto the targeted NWQI water bodies?
  3. Will the application include practices that remove the direct access of livestock to the targeted NWQI water bodies?
  4. Will the practices in the application result in the relocation or closure of an AFO/CAFO facility to address water resiurce concerns evaluated by reducing the MontFARM index value to less than 19?
  5. Does the PLU intersect the critical source area layer(s) for NWQI watersheds?

Additional Montana Information

The National Water Quality Initiative in Montana is funded through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP).

Ready to get started?

Contact your local service center to start your application.

Find Your Local Service Center

USDA Service Centers are locations where you can connect with Farm Service Agency, Natural Resources Conservation Service, or Rural Development employees for your business needs. Enter your state and county below to find your local service center and agency offices. If this locator does not work in your browser, please visit

How to Get Assistance

Do you farm or ranch and want to make improvements to the land that you own or lease?

Natural Resources Conservation Service offers technical and financial assistance to help farmers, ranchers and forest landowners.

how to get started

To get started with NRCS, we recommend you stop by your local NRCS field office. We’ll discuss your vision for your land.

NRCS provides landowners with free technical assistance, or advice, for their land. Common technical assistance includes: resource assessment, practice design and resource monitoring. Your conservation planner will help you determine if financial assistance is right for you.

We’ll walk you through the application process. To get started on applying for financial assistance, we’ll work with you:

  • To fill out an AD 1026, which ensures a conservation plan is in place before lands with highly erodible soils are farmed. It also ensures that identified wetland areas are protected.
  • To meet other eligibility certifications.

Once complete, we’ll work with you on the application, or CPA 1200.

Applications for most programs are accepted on a continuous basis, but they’re considered for funding in different ranking periods. Be sure to ask your local NRCS district conservationist about the deadline for the ranking period to ensure you turn in your application in time.

As part of the application process, we’ll check to see if you are eligible. To do this, you’ll need to bring:

  • An official tax ID (Social Security number or an employer ID)
  • A property deed or lease agreement to show you have control of the property; and
  • A farm number.

If you don’t have a farm number, you can get one from USDA’s Farm Service Agency. Typically, the local FSA office is located in the same building as the local NRCS office. You only need a farm number if you’re interested in financial assistance.

NRCS will take a look at the applications and rank them according to local resource concerns, the amount of conservation benefits the work will provide and the needs of applicants. View Application Ranking Dates by State.

If you’re selected, you can choose whether to sign the contract for the work to be done.

Once you sign the contract, you’ll be provided standards and specifications for completing the practice or practices, and then you will have a specified amount of time to implement. Once the work is implemented and inspected, you’ll be paid the rate of compensation for the work if it meets NRCS standards and specifications.