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Conservation Planning

NRCS Conservation Planning and Conservation Technical Assistance Overview

Job Approval Authority (JAA)

NRCS Job Approval Authority (JAA) is the quality assurance process that ensure implemented conservation practices will perform as intended.  All conservation practice designs and installations must be approved by a person with the appropriate job approval authority. 

Any person may work on preparing the design and checking the installation of conservation practices.  Any NRCS employee, or partner working under the technical supervision of NRCS, may be granted job approval authority, in accordance with policy and procedures.  NRCS JAA does not apply to Technical Service Providers.


Link to NC JAA SharePoint Portal:      
NC Job Approval Authority (JAA) Portal (NRCS/Partner Employees only)

NC NRCS JAA Top 10 Things To Know (October 2018) PDF

Certified Conservation Planner (CCP)

All conservation plans developed for NRCS purposes with the assistance of NRCS and partner employees will be approved by a NRCS or partner certified conservation planner. A certified conservation planner is a person who has demonstrated the necessary skills, training, and experience to assist clients to identify resource problems, to express the client's objectives, to propose feasible solutions to resource problems, and leads the client to choose and implement an effective alternative that treats resource concerns and meets their objectives.

Link to NC CCP SharePoint Portal:

NC Certified Conservation Planner (CCP) Portal (NRCS/Partner Employees only)

Access Instructions to NC SharePoint Site & AgLearn (Partner Employees Only)

Non-Federal Employee Network Access Process (PDF)

Non-Federal Employee Ag-Learn Access Process (PDF)

Conservation Planning is the backbone of NRCS. So, when someone asks what can NRCS do for landowners in North Carolina?  Our services start with technical assistance in the form of conservation planning. Conservation planning is a voluntary process that helps landowners develop a customized record of their natural resources and how those resources are utilized on farming operations, forested lands and wildlife habitats. It interprets the capabilities and limitations of the land for meeting landowner objectives.

This customized record, called a Conservation Plan, outlines selected conservation practices that will improve the use of natural resources on the land. Conservation practices are used to overcome natural resource limitations and issues and improve sustainability. The plan provides a reasonable schedule to implement conservation practices. With a Conservation Plan in hand and identified conservation practices mapped out, NRCS will help landowners identify Farm Bill conservation programs that offer financial assistance to help implement the practices identified within a Conservation Plan.

Conservation Planning is your roadmap to NRCS conservation programs.

Conservation Technical Assistance

Conservation Planning and NRCS technical assistance is offered through NRCS 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 land 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.

For more information about Conservation Technical Assistance and Conservation Planning, visit the North Carolina Conservation Plan Development website.

The Conservation Planning Process

The conservation planning process is used by all NRCS/ SWCD planners to provide assistance to clients. It is important for clients to understand how NRCS approaches conservation planning to be prepared for the conservationist and to have the same expectations when the conservationist visits their site.

The NRCS conservation planning process includes 9 steps. Each step is designed to provide parts that will eventually result in a fully implemented conservation plan. These steps do not necessarily occur in a sequential order and many steps may occur simultaneously.

The Nine Steps of Conservation Planning


The conservation planner prepares for a site visit by anticipating the conservation problems that may be encountered. This may require research and self-improvement study. They also assemble the basic information for the planning area such as soil surveys, plant yields, water quality issues, and other related information.

Step 1. Identify Problems

The conservation planner assists the client in determining the resource problems, opportunities, and concerns in the planning area. This includes an early identification of all natural resource problems. This will be further clarified as the process continues.

Step 2: Determine Objectives

The conservation planner must record the client's objectives. This might include how the area is to be used, what is the intended use of the property over the long term, what are the family considerations, and other factors that might influence the choice of conservation practices to be applied.

Step 3. Inventory Resources

A comprehensive inventory will be completed of the natural resources, such as the soils, plants, animals, physical structures, available labor, equipment, and anything else that might be needed to solve the conservation problems.

Step 4. Analyze Resource Data

The information gathered in Step 3 will be analyzed to clearly define the conditions of the natural resources along with the economic and social issues. The causes and effects of conservation problems will be summarized.

Step 5. Formulate Alternatives

One or more conservation alternatives are prepared that will achieve the client's objectives, solve the natural resource problems, and take advantage of opportunities to improve or protect resource conditions. Clients will be provided any products explaining the details of the conservation practices being considered. This would include job sheets, fact sheets, standards, or similar materials.

Step 6. Evaluate Alternatives

Each of the alternatives is evaluated to determine if it is addressing the client's objectives and the natural resource problems. The effects of the alternatives should be evaluated both for on-site and off-site impacts. The alternative should also be acceptable to the client. Special attention will need to be given to those ecological values protected by law and/or Executive Order.

Step 7. Make Decisions

The client selects the alternatives that will best serve their business. The conservationist then prepares the conservation plan of operations (CPO) for the client which includes the practices to be implemented and the schedule. The CPO is a record of conservation decisions made by the client.

Step 8. Implement Plan

The conservation planner delivers the plan to the client and reviews it for accuracy and clarity. The plan contains a listing of the conservation practices and a schedule for implementation. Included with these practices should be a description of the impacts of the selected practices on their natural resources. Plans usually include a map, field boundaries, soil map, and other items specific to the client’s property. The conservationist may also include other alternatives that the client has not or is not ready to make a decision on, but are needed to protect the resource. The client then requests needed assistance from the NRCS to implement the practices.

Step 9. Evaluate the Plan

NRCS will assist the client to evaluate the effectiveness of the plan as it is implemented. Conditions often change and may bring about the need to adjust the plan. NRCS will use information gathered during evaluations to "fine-tune" our conservation practices in meeting natural resource needs.

NRCS Conservation Practice Standards

The primary reference document guiding the delivery of NRCS technical assistance is the Field Office Technical Guide (FOTG).

NRCS has a Practice Standard for each conservation practice. Section IV of the FOTG contains these standards. Each NRCS standards contains the following: (1) a practice Definition, (2) the applicable Purposes of the practice, (3) Conditions Where the Practice Applies, (4) Criteria, which define how the practice must be designed or applied in order to meet the intended purpose, (5) Considerations, which provide information on job complexity and considerations that the designer should consider when planning this practice, (6) Plans and Specifications, which include the specific documentation that must be addressed by the practice design and provided to the client, and (7) Operation and Maintenance, which defines what information must be provided to the client so they can manage and maintain the practice properly so it will function for its intended life span. Although participation in USDA-NRCS programs are voluntary, NRCS standards are frequently referenced by state and other federal laws. All technical assistance provided by NRCS, partners working under operational agreements with NRCS, or those providing assistance on USDA-NRCS's behalf must meet NRCS standards. Similarly, all technical assistance provided by Technical Service Providers in support of Farm Bill programs must meet NRCS standards.

NRCS Conservation Practice Standards

The current NRCS national conservation practice standards may be viewed on the National Conservation Practices web page. The practice standards adopted for use in a state may include special provisions or additional details needed for variations in natural resource conditions, or to meet state laws, local ordinances, or regulations. The conservation practice standards adopted for use in a state are used for providing conservation technical assistance by NRCS conservationists and our conservation partners in the state; and are served in the eFOTG Section IV for each state.

North Carolina Certified Conservation Planner Status Map

Select the linked map image below to locate the status of currently certified conservation planners by county.

(AlternateMap Link)