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Conservation Buffers

Buffers for Conservation

What is a buffer?

Conservation buffers are strips or other areas with trees or grass that help control pollutants, erosion, or other environmental concerns.


Examples of buffers are:

  • Grassed waterways
  • Contour grass strips
  • Field borders
  • Filter strips
  • Riparian buffers
  • Ponds

Which areas in this image need buffers?

See examples of buffers in New Hampshire


artwork of some conservation practices on a farm


How do buffers help?

  • Slow water runoff
  • Trap sediment and dust
  • Trap fertilizers and pesticides
  • Protect wildlife and livestock from harsh weather
  • Reduce winds, noise and odors
  • Provide food, nesting cover and shelter for many wildlife species
  • Increase privacy and beautify the countryside



Photo of an eroding river bank that supports crops  

Where are buffers needed?

  • Along streams, lakes, ponds, wetlands, and the seacoast
  • Next to roads and driveways
  • Along parking lots
  • Along and in agricultural fields
  • Around residential and commercial property
  • Any other area that can serve to filter runoff and pollutants before they reach a water body

The area along this New Hampshire river needs a conservation buffer. If you have property that looks like this, call your local NRCS / Conservation District office for assistance.


See examples of buffers at work in New Hampshire.


Technical Guidelines - How Do I Make a Buffer?

NRCS is in the business of providing technical guidelines for implementing conservation practices like buffers. We have "practice standards" in our Field Office Technical Guide and other publications available for landowners and planners to put buffers on the ground that really work the way they are supposed to. Here are some helpful resources on buffers:



The National Conservation Buffer Initiative

Buffers are such a critical conservation practice that we have developed a national, partnership effort to promote their use. This effort strives to help landowners:

  • Use grasses and trees to protect and enhance resources.
  • Maintain a healthy, productive environment.
  • Ensure clean water, fish and wildlife habitat and better air quality.

Visit the National Conservation Buffer Initiative website!



Getting Help for Designing and Installing Buffers

Check out the USDA programs that promote buffers

Visit the Riparian Buffer Quick Guide web site to view many sources of assistance for work on buffers.



Who is promoting conservation buffers?

  • Everyone interested in water quality, fish and wildlife!

  • Conservation Districts

  • USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)

  • USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA)

  • Cooperative Extension (CE)

  • US Fish and Wildlife Service

  • Lake and River Associations and Commissions

  • Private conservation groups

  • Sportsman's groups

  • State agencies

  • Visit our web site on partnerships for many links.