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Conservation Planning

There's no time like the present. There's no better reason than the future.

Having a conservation plan today is one way to prepare for tomorrow. The professionals at your local Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) or Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) office can provide free assistance to help you develop or refine your conservation strategy. We’ll help you craft a conservation plan that meets the unique needs of your operation, your land, and your life.

About Conservation Planning

It’s up to you, as farmers and ranchers, to decide on the best ways to improve the productivity, sustainability, and profitability of your operation. For many producers, conservation planning serves as a fundamental starting point for maintaining and improving the natural resources that support productive and profitable agricultural operations.

Every farm or ranch has its own unique resource problems or concerns. Whether it’s a large scale ranching operation or a small acreage hobby farm, conservation planning is an important — and voluntary — first step that owners and operators can take to meet their land management goals. At your request, certified conservation planners with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and local conservation districts can provide planning assistance to help producers identify options that provide the greatest conservation benefit while meeting production goals.

Benefits of a Conservation Plan

  • Identifies immediate or potential resource problems that could hurt your production.
  • Helps you comply with environmental regulations.
  • Helps you qualify for various USDA conservation programs.
  • Adapts to your changing operational goals.
  • Establishes a reasonable schedule for you to apply needed conservation practices.
  • Can save you time, labor and energy.
  • Makes your farm or ranch a nicer place to live for you and your family.

Your Conservation Plan

Through the planning process, a producer develops a conservation plan, or a written record of the management decisions and the conservation practices that are in use or planned for that operation. A conservation plan combines the farming or ranching skills of the operator with the science-based knowledge of the conservation planner.

A Conservation Plan Includes:

  • An aerial photo or diagram of your fields;
  • A soil map and soil descriptions;
  • Resource inventory data, which can include crop production potential or livestock carrying capacity;
  • A list of your treatment decisions; and
  • The location and schedule for applying and maintaining conservation practices.

A conservation plan is a confidential document, and no person or agency other than NRCS has access to it without written authorization. The plan does not provide public access to the property.

Working with a conservation planner, you can produce a conservation plan to help you:

  • develop alternatives and identify strategies for implementing on-farm solutions,
  • prepare for agricultural or market certifications,
  • address regulatory requirements, and
  • prepare for conservation program opportunities.

Conservation Systems

The combination of different treatments that work together to address the overall natural resource needs on a farm or ranch is called a conservation system, or a resource management system (RMS). Conservation systems are sets of land treatments that, when properly planned and applied, work in tandem to provide the greatest overall conservation and production benefits. When designing an overall conservation system, land managers must consider all of the resources and activities on the land.

Depending on the operation, your farm or ranch may benefit from a simple conservation system or a combination of different systems to meet all of your natural resource needs and operational goals. This will depend on the landscape, resource concerns, type of operation, and landowner objectives. Each land manager will determine the treatments to use based on these considerations. Because of this, each system is different, even among similar operations.

Practices to Enhance Your Conservation Systems

As you develop the conservation systems that are right for your land, you will consider a number of options. Below are some of the individual practices that could enhance your conservation systems, improve your operation, and protect the natural resources on your land. In selecting new conservation measures, carefully consider how each treatment will function with the unique characteristics, land uses, and additional conservation treatments in place on your property.

For more detailed information about how these and other treatments may function on a given operation to meet specific objectives, consider discussing your options with a conservation planner. Technical staff from several federal and state agencies, as well as agribusiness and private consultants, can help identify and evaluate options and alternatives.

Descriptions are provided for informational purposes only. Engineering and structural practices must be designed by a professional and according to acceptable standards to provide the intended functions and benefits.

Click on practice to view a description and considerations: