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TSSH Part 601

Legislative Authority for Technical Soil Services

Background (601.00)

Legislative authority for the soil survey, passed in September of 1966, gave renewed responsibility to soil scientists to provide technical soils assistance for Resource Planning and Development. Public Law 89-560: Soil Surveys for Resource Planning and Development, dated September 7, 1966, provided legal authority for the Technical Soil Services program of the United States Department of Agriculture by specifying that soil surveys are needed by

states and other public agencies in connection with community planning and resource development for protecting and improving the quality of the environment, meeting recreational needs, conserving land and water resources, providing for multiple uses of such resources, and controlling land and water resources, providing for multiple uses of such resources, and controlling and reducing pollution from sediment and other pollutants in areas of rapidly changing uses–[and that the Secretary of Agriculture shall provide] the furnishing of technical and other assistance needed for the use of soil surveys.

Authority for technical and/or other assistance needed for use of soil surveys also is provided by Title 7 Code of Federal Regulations, Chapter VI, Subchapter B—Conservation Operations, Part 610.4—Technical Assistance furnished. This regulation states:

The Natural Resources Conservation Service provides technical assistance to land users and others who are responsible for making decisions and setting policies that influence land use, conservation treatment, and resource management. Technical assistance furnished by NRCS consists of program assistance, planning assistance, application of conservation practices, and assistance in the technical phases of USDA cost-share programs.

“Planning assistance” is defined as “evaluation of soil, water, vegetation and other resource data needed for making land use, environmental, and conservation treatment decisions.” This authority, coupled with that cited under Public Law 89-560, forms the basis for providing technical assistance in the use of soil survey information in the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Authorized activities (601.01)

  1. Soil scientists are authorized to provide onsite assistance at the request of state and local units of government with which we have a memorandum of understanding (MOU) or a cooperative agreement. The MOU or cooperative agreement should outline the kinds of technical services NRCS agrees to provide under the agreement. Such technical onsite assistance could be on the land of an individual; however, the purpose of our visit should be to provide technical assistance to a cooperating agency administering a program (such as a Soil and Water Conservation District), not to the individual landowner directly.
  2. Soil scientists are authorized to provide onsite technical assistance to individual cooperators with a Soil and Water Conservation District. Services to individual cooperators are typically to help apply a conservation plan and are described in general terms within District Agreements with NRCS.
  3. Soil scientists are authorized to provide information taken directly from a soil survey report (no field visit involved) to individuals or units of government even if we have no MOU or cooperative agreement with them. We are also authorized to provide such individuals or units of government copies of soil survey reports (whole or in part) and to show them how to find and use information. This constitutes the providing of existing public information and is not considered “onsite assistance.”
  4. Soil scientists are sometimes solicited by an individual or by the court to testify in court cases. Policy dictates that NRCS employees contact your administrative officer immediately any time you are approached by an individual or a court official concerning testifying in court or providing information to be used in court. Make no commitments or comments until authorized to do so.