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National Resources Inventory

What is the National Resources Inventory?

In 1972, Congress directed the U.S. Department of Agriculture to implement a monitoring and land-inventory program on all the non-federally owned land in the nation, and to issue a report on the natural resources at least every five years. The NRI program was developed to meet these demands.

The Natural Resources Conservation Service, in cooperation with the Iowa State Statistical Laboratory, conducts the inventories. From 1977 through 1997, complete inventories were conducted every five years. Several less intensive, special-issue inventories were completed during the 1990s to investigate topical matters of concern and to supplement recent NRIs. Since 2000, the NRI was designed to be conducted on a continuous basis, with a specified number of NRI segments completed each year. For more information, go to the NRCS National Resources Inventory web site.

What is NRI used for?

NRI data are used in a variety of ways. According to the NRCS Resources Inventory Division, one of the most important uses is for the "NRCS Chief's budget testimony to Congress–each year. NRI data documents the status, conditions, and trends of our nation's natural resources and therefore the need for conservation assistance and program budget-support. Other key internal uses include strategic planning, performance measures, and accountability."

State and national level estimates for changes in land cover and use, cropland use by irrigated and non-irrigated acres, broad land cover/use by land capability class and subclass, prime farmland, erosion and erodibility, wildlife habitat diversity, and wetlands and deepwater habitats are among the summary statistics that are available. This information provides base-line natural resource information to a variety of groups and individuals interested in obtaining insight into the condition of our Nation's nonfederal rural lands.

The objectives of NRCS resource inventories have expanded over time, as the focus of agricultural policy has moved toward a balance between short-term production goals, long-term capabilities, and environmental quality. Statistical techniques, data collection protocols, and data handling and dissemination technologies have evolved as inventory goals have become broader and more sophisticated.

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