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Natural Resource Conservation Service

The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) helps individuals, groups, organizations, and governments voluntarily conserve natural resources on private land. Its Washington State office is located in Spokane.

They assist land users and communities with conservation planning and applying conservation approaches that benefit natural resources and protect water quality. The NRCS provides technical, and in some cases, financial assistance for stewardship activities.

The agency works closely with conservation districts, local governments, and private landowners to help prioritize local natural resource needs. It administers several programs, some of which are detailed below.

 

Conservation of Private Grazing Land (CPGL)

The Conservation of Private Grazing Land Initiative provides education and technical assistance to owners of private grazing lands. It offers technical assistance in the following areas, among others: better grazing land management, protecting soil from erosive wind and water, conserving water, providing habitat for wildlife, sustaining forage and grazing plants, and using plants to sequester greenhouse gases and increase soil organic matter. 

Conservation Security Program (CSP)

The Conservation Security Program is designed to reward farmers who have adopted good conservation practices, and it provides substantial incentives to expand or enhance current conservation efforts. It is a voluntary program providing financial and technical assistance to promote the conservation and improvement of soil, water, air, energy, plant and animal life, and other conservation purposes on tribal and private working lands.

Working lands for the purposes of CSP include cropland, grassland, prairie land, improved pasture, and range land, as well as forested land that is an incidental part of an agriculture operation. In 2006, the Naches watershed was selected for Washington's CSP sign-up.  

Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP)

The Natural Resource Conservation Service and the Farm Service Agency are partners in this voluntary program. The Environmental Quality Incentive Program makes financial and technical assistance available for farmers and ranchers to undertake conservation practices, particularly those related to water quality improvements.

EQIP encourages producers to solve point and non-point source pollution on farms, ranches, and non-industrial forest land. Practices funded may include: establishing permanent vegetative cover; building structures for sediment retention, erosion control or water control; protecting streams; constructing wetlands system for agricultural water treatment; enhancing riparian buffer strips and permanent wildlife habitat; and reducing sources of agricultural pollutants. 

Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program (FRPP)

The Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program helps farmers and ranchers keep their land in agriculture and prevents conversion of agricultural lands to non-agricultural uses. It provides matching funds to help purchase development rights.

Working through existing programs, USDA partners with state, tribal, or local governments and non-governmental organizations to acquire conservation easements or other interests in land from landowners.

To qualify, farmland must: be part of a pending offer from a state, tribe, or local farmland protection program; be privately owned; have a conservation plan for highly erodible land; be large enough to sustain agricultural production; be accessible to markets for what the land produces; have adequate infrastructure and agricultural support services; and have surrounding parcels of land that can support long-term agricultural production. 

Grassland Reserve Program (GRP)

The Grassland Reserve Program is a voluntary program that helps landowners and operators restore and protect grassland, including rangeland and pasture. The program emphasizes support for grazing operations, plant and animal diversity, and grassland and land containing shrubs and forbs that is under the greatest threat of conversion to cropland or urban use.

Under GRP, landowners are provided cost-share funds to restore native grasslands. The program is offered to the highest priority sites only. Assistance is provided to landowners and operators for developing the plan which describes intentions and objectives, practices needed and landowner requirements to maintain grassland diversity. Easements may be permanent or for 30 years.  

NRCS Resource Conservation and Development Program (RC&D)

This program helps community leaders develop rural economies by improving and conserving local natural resources. Each RC & D office targets a specific geographic area, and a council of local officials, citizens, special districts, and nonprofit organizations is formed to identify problems, goals, and a plan of action for each area.

The NRCS provides a coordinator who creates partnerships with government groups, local communities, and other nonprofit organizations; seeks outside funding; and provides technical assistance. Projects may include wetland protection, flood plain management, and habitat restoration. 

NRCS Technical Assistance

The main directive of the NRCS is to provide technical assistance to landowners, groups, organizations, tribes, and local and state government for the purpose of conserving and managing soil, water, and natural resources. This on-the-ground assistance can help to inventory natural resources and apply conservation practices to protect and enhance those resources.

The majority of the users of these services are in the agricultural community. The NRCS folds a broad range of tasks under the heading technical assistance, including: wetland determinations on agricultural lands and small areas adjacent to agricultural land; development of conservation plans; development of standards, specifications, design, and installation of conservation measures including wetland creation, restoration, and enhancement; information on appropriate plant materials; and soil surveys. 

Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP)

The Wetlands Reserve Program is a voluntary program offering agricultural landowners an opportunity to receive payments for restoring and protecting wetlands. WRP provides cost-share funds for wetlands restoration and up to the agricultural value of the land for granting the government a conservation easement.

The program is offered to the highest priority sites only. Assistance is provided to landowners for developing the plan which describes intentions and objectives, practices needed to accomplish the restoration, landowner requirements for maintaining the restored wetland values, and other details. Easements may be perpetual or for 30 years.  

Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program (WHIP)

The Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program provides technical and financial assistance to enhance priority fish and wildlife habitat in areas impacted by agricultural activities. Priority habitats include: estuaries, wetlands, riparian habitat, shrub-steppe, and oak woodlands.

Other priorities include restoring habitat for fish passage streams containing critical or depressed stocks and restoring and enhancing wetlands identified in the Pacific Coast and Intermountain West Joint Venture Plans.

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