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Conservation Planning

Conservation Planning and Resource Management

The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) provides conservation planning and technical assistance to clients (individuals, groups, and units of government).  these clients develop and implement plans to protect, conserve, and enhance natural resources (soil, water, air, plants, and animals) and to address their social and economic interests.

In 1947, Hugh Hammond Bennett identified the principles of conservation planning in his text, Elements of Soil Conservation.  According to Bennett, an effective conservation plan must adhere to the following principles:

  • Consider the needs and capabilities of each acre within the plan.
  • Consider the farmer's facilities, machinery, and economic situation.
  • Incorporate the farmer's willingness to try new practices.
  • Consider the land's relationship to the entire farm, ranch, or watershed.
  • Ensure the conservationist's presence out on the land.

Planning involves more than considering individual resources.  It focuses on the natural systems and ecological processes that sustain the resources.  The plan strives to balance natural resource issues with social and economic needs through the development of conservation management systems (CMS) which include resource management systems (RMS) and acceptable management systems (AMS).  The major difference between and RMS and an AMS is the level of treatment for one or more of the resource considerations.

The conservation plan enables the planner to accomplish the following:
  • Help protect, conserve, and enhance natural resources.
  • Design a CMS alternative that meets local resource quality criteria for identified resource issues.
  • Include the consideration of human concerns toward achieving sustainable agriculture.
  • Consider the effects of planned actions on interrelated geographical areas (i.e., looking off-site, beyond the planning unit boundary).
  • Consider and explain the interaction between biological communities and society.
  • Focus on ecological principles.
  • Consider the effects and interactions of planned systems and practices on the natural resources, as well as economic and social considerations.
  • Assist with development of plans, regardless of scale, which will help achieve the client's and society's objectives.
  • Identify where knowledge, science, and technology need to be advanced.

Planning is complex and dynamic.  Successful planning requires not only a high level of knowledge, skills, and abilities on the part of the planner, but also the exercise of professional judgment.

For help in developing a conservation plan for your land contact the nearest NRCS field office.