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Locally-Led Conservation

Locally-Led Conservation

Local people at the table with NRCS and Conservation 
District partnersThe process of identifying key landscape features and then discussing the conservation needs with those who care about the land is a powerful action. It provides a clearer picture of which critical natural resource concerns to address first, where they are on the landscape, and how they impact ecosystems. This can result in more effective, cost-efficient conservation on the ground -- motivated by communities that understand the land and what it needs from them. Visit the NRCS Social Sciences Institute for publications that will help locally-led conservation efforts.

Above right shows NRCS staff with Conservation District Staff, working with local people on a conservation problem.

Often, resources for addressing identified conservation concerns are from non-local sources. Federal, state, and local governments can channel assistance through local Conservation Districts.

Locally-led conservation is based on the principle that local people make the best decisions for their own communities This was recognized even 60 years ago by the establishment of county conservation districts to address natural resource concerns. Then, 30 years ago RC&D councils were established to solve environmental, economic and social problems facing communities. Today, New Hampshire's ten Conservation Districts and two RC&D councils work together with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service through a locally-led process.  Locate the offices nearest you.

How Does It Work?

Using locally-led conservation typically involves a sequence of steps so that the entire community is involved in both planning and implementation. These steps include:

  1. Reaching out to the public and bringing local stakeholders together
  2. Using a needs assessment to analyze local issues and concerns
  3. Setting local priorities based on public input and needs assessment
  4. Identifying the resources available to address local needs and priorities
  5. Developing and implementing a plan for action
  6. Reviewing and evaluating needs and accomplishments

Every step in this process helps accomplish community goals. Involvement breeds commitment, and projects built on a locally-led process will have local benefits that the community can both experience and be proud of.  These steps can be incorporated with the conservation planning process to accomplish community-supported conservation planning on a variety of scales.

How We Can Help

In New Hampshire, we have a Core New Hampshire Conservation Partnership that helps communities address natural resource concerns. Our ten County Conservation Districts and two RC&D Councils are made up of local people that help guide communities in this locally-led process. Facilitation of local involvement is one of the backbones of the Conservation Partnership. 

The Natural Resource Concerns

Through the locally-led process, Conservation Districts, RC&D Councils and the Natural Resources Conservation Service are working on the following current conservation issues:

  • Water quality
  • Farmland protection
  • Nutrient management
  • Creative economic development
  • Watershed education
  • Ecosystem restoration
  • Reducing erosion and sediment runoff in rural and urban communities
  • And many others.

Get Involved

We in the Conservation Partnership can't help communities accomplish their goals without committed local people. Please contact your local Partnership office to be part of the solution.

Visit the National Association of Conservation Districts website on locally-led conservation for more information and tools.


Visit the NRCS Social Sciences Institute, a great source of information on communities and locally-led conservation methods and tools.