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Conservation Planning

The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is the U. S. Department of Agriculture's principal agency for providing conservation technical assistance to private landowners, conservation districts, tribes, and other organizations.

NRCS delivers conservation technical assistance through its voluntary Conservation Technical Assistance Program (CTA).  CTA is available to any group or individual interested in conserving our natural resources and sustaining agricultural production i n the country.

What is Conservation Technical Assistance?

Conservation Technical assistance is the help NRCS and its partners provide to land users to address opportunities, concerns, and problems related to the use of natural resources and to help land users make sound natural resource management decisions on private, tribal, and other non-federal lands.

This assistance can help land users:

  • Maintain and improve private lands and their management
  • Implement better and management technologies
  • Protect and improve water quality and quantity
  • Maintain and improve wildlife and fish habitat
  • Enhance recreational opportunities on their land
  • Maintain and improve the aesthetic character of private land
  • Explore opportunities to diversify agricultural operations and
  • Develop and apply sustainable agricultural systems

This assistance may be in the form of resource assessment, practice design, resource monitoring, or follow-up of installed practices.

Although the CTA program does not include financial or cost-share assistance, clients may develop "conservation plan, or a RMS  Conservation Plan" which may serve as a springboard for those interested in participating in USDA financial assistance programs.  CTA planning can also serve as a door to financial assistance and easement conservation programs provided by other Federal, State and local programs.

What is Conservation Planning?

Conservation planning is a voluntary natural resource problem solving and management process.  The NRCS objective in conservation planning is to help the client achieve sound use and management of soil, water, air, plant , animal resources to prevent their degradation, assure their sustained use and productivity, comply with regulatory requirements while considering economic and social needs.

Conservation plans are developed and implemented to protect, conserve and/or enhance natural resources within the client's social, economic interests and abilities.  Natural resources are defined by NRCS to include soil, water, air, plants, animals, energy and human considerations (SWAPAE +H). 

The plan describes the schedule of implementation for practices and activities needed to solve the identified natural resource concerns.

The conservation plan is a record of decisions by the landowner, and supporting information for improving one or more identified natural resource concerns.

What is an RMS Conservation Plan?

The Resource management System(RMS) Conservation Plan is voluntary, site-specific, comprehensive and action oriented.  It does not legally obligate the client to a binding agreement.  The RMS planning process provides the framework for developing a conservation plan.  Planning to a RMS level is necessary to provide minimum level of resource protection and to insure sustainability of the resource base.  It contains natural resource information, a record of decisions made by the landowner, describes the schedule of operations and activities needed to solve identified natural resource problems.

The planning process is flexible when a landowner is ready, willing and able to make and implement some, but not all, of the decisions necessary to achieve and RMS level of management.  The rate of progress in implementing an RMS depends on the client's objectives and ability to make and implement conservation decisions, based on resource, economic, social, and public policy considerations.  Implementation of the plan involves technical and financial assistance from cooperative source of conservation partners.

How Does a RMS Plan Differ From a Conservation Program Contract?

A RMS plan is voluntary and not legally binding - its' a "course of action", the foundation for a complete conservation plan.  A conservation program contract is the formal agreement that legally binds all parties involved to specific responsibilities and obligations.  Once a landowner has signed the contract, the are legally obligated to meet the specified requirements for the duration of the contract period.

A landowner's involvement in the development and implementation of a conservation plan is voluntary, and the technical assistance required can be obtained without charge from NRCS.  For more information about the NRCS and conservation planning please contact the field office in your county today.  For more information about our programs authorized under the Farm Bill, please visit our programs website page by clicking the following link below.

NRCS Programs

Who Needs Conservation Technical Assistance?

NRCS and its partners use the CTA program to provide technical assistance to:

  • Farmers
  • Ranchers
  • Local units of government
  • Citizen groups
  • Recreation groups
  • Tribal governments
  • Professional consultants
  • State and Federal agencies
  • and others interested in conserving natural resources

This voluntary program is delivered to private individuals, groups of decision-makers, units of governments, and non-governmental organizations in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, U. S. Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of Palau and the Marshall Islands.

All owners, managers and others who have a stake and interest in natural resource management are eligible to receive technical assistance from NRCS.  To receive technical assistance, the individual may contact their local NRCS office or the local conservation district.

The working relationships that landowners and communities have with their local NRCS staff are unique.  One-on-One help through flexible, voluntary programs occurs every day in local NRCS offices across the country.  It is the way NRCS does business, and it works.