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Landscape Conservation Initiatives

Landscape Conservation Initiatives - Wisconsin

NRCS uses Landscape Conservation Initiatives to accelerate the benefits of voluntary conservation programs, such as cleaner water and air, healthier soil and enhanced wildlife habitat.

Through these initiatives, NRCS seeks to accomplish: 

  • Conservation beyond boundaries—Landscape-scale natural resource concerns, such as species conservation and water quality, cannot be treated effectively based on geo-political boundaries.  NRCS recognizes that natural resource concerns transcend farm, county, and state boundaries.
  • A science-based approach—Findings from the multi-agency Conservation Effects Assessment Project (CEAP) indicate the most effective way to increase protection of natural resources is to target conservation to the most vulnerable or valuable areas and to apply a systems rather than a practice-by-practice approach. 
  • Build on existing locally-led efforts and partnerships—NRCS seeks to maximize the success of initiatives by leveraging partner interest and resources through programmatic and other tools.
  • Regulatory certainty for agricultural producers—Where applicable, NRCS is working with regulators so agricultural producers can have certainty that the voluntary conservation systems they implement are consistent with current and potential regulation, as well as sustained agricultural production.

Active Initiatives in Wisconsin

Great Lakes Restoration Initiative

Restoring and protecting watersheds in eight states surrounding the Great Lakes that provide drinking water for over 40 million Americans and drive a $62 billion annual economy of fishing, boating and recreational activities.

Joint Chiefs' Landscape Restoration Partnership

Addressing wildfire threats, water quality, and wildlife habitat by removing down wood, treating invasive species in disturbed areas, and establishing trees as necessary.

Mississippi River Basin Initiative

Improving water quality, restoring wetlands, and enhancing wildlife habitat and agricultural profitability in priority small watersheds of the Mississippi River in the 13 states, including Wisconsin

National Water Quality Initiative

NRCS works with farmers and ranchers in 165 small watersheds throughout the Nation to improve water quality where this is a critical concern.

Working Lands for Wildlife Initiative: Targeting Monarch Butterflies in Wisconsin

NRCS works with agricultural producers in the Midwest and the southern Great Plains to combat the decline of monarch butterflies by planting milkweed and other nectar-rich plants on private lands. This region is the core of the monarch’s migration route and breeding habitat.

Inactive/Past Initiatives

Driftless Area Landscape Conservation Initiative in Wisconsin

The Driftless Area is a natural resource treasure, providing habitat for myriad animals and fertile land for farmers, ranchers and forest landowners. Erosion on the steep slopes of the region threatens habitat and farms alike. The Driftless Area Landscape Conservation Initiative (DALCI) was a 5-year effort launched in 2013 to help farmers fight erosion and restore coldwater stream corridors. Learn more

NRCS offered financial assistance to agricultural producers for implementing practices that reduced erosion and improved fish wildlife habitat in the Driftless Area of Wisconsin. Financial assistance through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) focused on reducing erosion and sediment delivery to surface water as well as activities related to improving fish and wildlife habitats. The program provided payments to help implement designated conservation practices. Socially disadvantaged farmers, limited resource farmers, and beginning farmers may qualify for higher program payments.

Learn more - Driftless: Conserving a Unique Midwestern Landscape

Bear Creek Streambank Restoration in Sauk County: Pool, Riffle, Run... The Rhythm for Restoring Streams

Much of Bear Creek had severely eroded banks and sediment covered the stream bottom, preventing spawning of game fish. Now it's a jewel of a restoration that runs 4.5 miles through a scenic valley in southwest Wisconsin, and the trout are back.

landscape with stream arching around tree and landscape features


Vernon County: EQIP Assists in Restoring Stream Function

Dave Jacobson experienced severe flooding on his farm, exacerbating streambank erosion, threatening adjoining cropland and impairing stream function due to increased sediment loading. Through EQIP, Dave was able to restore his Spring Coulee Creek streambanks through bank shaping, riprap, seeding and more.

Lunker structures, instream wood placement, and instream rock placement provide habitat for trout.

Pepin County: Partnering to Restore Fall Creek

Mike Brion and his two sons run Brion Dairy LLC, a century farm with 500 dairy cows and 1,800 acres of alfalfa, corn, soybeans and rye. With the help of NRCS, Brion enrolled in the Fall Creek Water Quality Project to complete numerous water quality projects to improve surface and ground water quality, including a barnyard runoff control system, a waste storage facility and a wetland restoration. His two sons most recently worked with NRCS to restore Fall Creek, a trout stream that runs through the property. Read more about the steps taken in the steam restoration at Brion Dairy.

Creek running between land covered in grass, snaking between trees


Lake Superior Landscape Restoration Partnership

 The U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Forest Service joined forces in a Landscape Restoration Partnership to improve the health and resiliency of forests on public and private lands. The Forest Service and Natural Resources Conservation Service together invested $30 million in 13 projects across the nation.  In Wisconsin, the Beartrap-Nemadji and Bad-Montreal Watersheds in northwest Wisconsin were selected.


The Lake Superior Restoration Partnership worked across public and private lands in Wisconsin to protect water quality and improve habitat for at-risk species. The project focuses:

  • Promote adoption of managed grazing for beef and dairy cows to improve soil health and water quality.
  • Install large woody debris to expose gravel for trout spawning habitat.
  • Improve forest nesting habitat for Golden-winged Warblers, Kirtland Warblers and Sharp-Tailed Grouse.
  • Plant trees and shrubs to increase infiltration and stabilize steep slopes.
  • Manage barnyard runoff to decrease phosphorus flowing into surface waters.
  • Stabilize eroding streambanks and decrease sediment loads to streams.
  • Create firebreaks and treat woody residue to lower fire risks. Improve forest stand to slow runoff from snow melt.
  • Remove barriers to allow fish passage for native Brook Trout.
  • Reduce sediment runoff to trout streams from forest roads

Additional Information

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.