Natural Resources Conservation Service
|Natural Resources Conservation Service|
|Formed||April 20, 1932|
|Preceding Agency||Soil Erosion Service|
|Agency executives||Jason Weller, Acting Chief
James Gore, Assistant Chief
|Parent Agency||Department of Agriculture|
The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), formerly known as the Soil Conservation Service (SCS), is an agency of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) that provides technical assistance to farmers and other private landowners and managers.
Its name was changed in 1994 during the Presidency of Bill Clinton to reflect its broader mission. It is a relatively small agency, currently comprising about 12,000 employees. Its mission is to improve, protect, and conserve natural resources on private lands through a cooperative partnership with local and state agencies. While its primary focus has been agricultural lands, it has made many technical contributions to soil surveying, classification and water quality improvement. One example is the Conservation Effects Assessment Project (CEAP), set up to quantify the benefits of agricultural conservation efforts promoted and supported by programs in the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 (2002 Farm Bill). NRCS is the leading agency in this project.
The agency was founded largely through the efforts of Hugh Hammond Bennett, a soil conservation pioneer who had worked for the Department of Agriculture from 1903 to 1952. Bennett's motivation was based on his knowledge of the detrimental effects of soil erosion and the impacts on U.S lands that led to the Dust Bowl in the 1930s. On September 13, 1933, the Soil Erosion Service was formed in the Department of the Interior, with Bennett as chief. The service was transferred to the Department of Agriculture on March 23, 1935, and was shortly thereafter combined with other USDA units to form the Soil Conservation Service by the Soil Conservation and Domestic Allotment Act of 1935. Hugh Bennett continued as chief, a position he held until his retirement in 1952. On October 20, 1994, the agency was renamed to the Natural Resources Conservation Service as part of the Federal Crop Insurance Reform and Department of Agriculture Reorganization Act of 1994.
Programs and services 
As of November 2011 the NRCS consists of 42 programs and activities. The NRCS also offers services to private land owners, conservation districts, tribes, and other types of organizations.
Farm bill 
The conservation provisions in the Food, Conservation, and Energy act of 2008. This bill provides conservation opportunities for farmers. Services also include financial assistance which makes sure money is allocated and used properly in providing conservation for various natural resources, technical assistance which is given through the Conservation Technical Assistance program (CTA). This service is available to anyone interested in conservation of natural resources and easements. This includes:
Farm and Ranch Land Protection Program 
(FRPP) The purpose of this program is to work with land owners to purchase development rights to current farm and ranch land, in order to keep said land from being developed for other uses. The program matches funds from property owners, and can be applied whether potential buyers are private or from state or local government, as well as Native American tribes. In order to receive funds from the program, the land must be privately owned, and have an offer for sale pending. The land must be large enough to support substantial agricultural yield, and be surrounded by land with a similar nature. If there is a danger for soil erosion, a conservation plan must be included.
Grasslands Reserve Program 
(GRP) Volunteer program to increase animal and plant biodiversity, and to protect grasslands. Participants limit use of grassland for commercial and agricultural development. The land may still be grazed or seeded, with the exception of the nesting seasons of bird species that are protected under law. A grazing management plan must be submitted for participation. 
Healthy Forests Reserve Program 
(HFRP) Landowners volunteer to restore and protect forests in 30 or 10 year contracts. This program hands assisting funds to participants. The objectives of HFRP are to:
- Promote the recovery of endangered and threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA)
- Improve plant and animal biodiversity
- Enhance carbon sequestration 
Wetlands Reserve Program 
(WRP) Volunteer program for landowners to protect or restore wetlands on properties they own. The program offers both financial and technological support to these landowners in order to help cultivate long term wetland health with optimal biodiversity per acre.
NRCS National Ag Water Management Team 
(AGWAM) Serves 10 states in the Midwest United States in helping to reduce Nitrate levels in soil due to runoff from fertilized farmland. The project began in 2010 and initially focused on the Mississippi Basin area. The main goal of the project is to implement better methods of managing water drainage from agricultural uses, in place of letting the water drain naturally as it had done in the past. In October 2011, the The National "Managing Water, Harvesting Results" Summit was held to promote the drainage techniques used in hopes of people adopting them nationwide.
Snow Survey and Water Supply Forecasting 
Includes water supply forecasts, reservoirs, and the Surface Water Supply Index (SWSI) for Alaska and other Western states. NRCS agents collect data from snowpack and mountain sites to predict spring runoff and summer streamflow amounts. These predictions are used in decision making for agriculture, wildlife management, construction and development, and several other areas. These predictions are available within the first 5 days of each month from January to June.
Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program 
(WHIP) Is a volunteer program for improving habitats for wildlife on farmlands, private lands, and Indian land. The program was renewed in 2008 under the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act. WHIP provides up to 75 percent cost share and technical assistance, and includes both terrestrial and freshwater aquatic habitats. The program aims to protect seven threatened species in particular:
- Lesser Prairie Chicken
- New England Cottontail
- Southwestern Willow Flycatcher
- Greater Sage-Grouse
- Gopher Tortoise
- Bog Turtle
- Golden-winged Warbler
Conservation Technical Assistance Program 
(CTA) Is a blanket program which involves conservation efforts on soil and water conservation, as well as management of agricultural wastes, erosion, and general longterm sustainability. NRCS and related agencies work with landowners, communities, or developers to protect the environment. Also serve to guide people to comply with acts such as the Highly Erodible Land, Wetland (Swampbuster), and Conservation Compliance Provisions acts. The CTA can also cover projects by state, local, and federal governments.
Gulf of Mexico Initiative 
(GoMI)Is a program to assist gulf bordering states (Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas) improve water quality and use sustainable methods of farming, fishing, and other industry. The program will deliver up to 50 million dollars over 2011-2013 to apply these sustainable methods, as well as wildlife habitat management systems that do not hinder agricultural productivity, and prevent future over use of water resources to protect native endangered species.
International programs 
The NRCS (formerly SCS)has been involved in soil and other conservation issues internationally since the 1930s. The main bulk of international programs focused on preventing soil erosion by sharing techniques known to the United States with other areas. NRCS sends staff to countries worldwide to conferences to improve knowledge of soil conservation. There is also international technical assistance programs similar to programs implemented in the United States. There are long term technical assistance programs in effect with one or more NRCS staff residing in the country for a minimum of one year. There are currently long term assistance programs on every continent. Short term technical assistance is also available on a two week basis.
These programs are to encourage local landowners and organizations to participate in the conservation of natural resources on their land, and lastly landscape planning has a goal to solve problems dealing with natural resource conservation with the help of the community in order to reach a desired future outcome.
Technical resources 
Pollution of water due to a number of different pollutants has driven the NRCS to take action. Not only do they offer financial assistance but they also provide the equipment needed for private land owners to protect our water resources. Water gets polluted by nitrogen and phosphorus which causes algae to grow proliferously causing the oxygen concentrations to decline rapidly, life is no longer supported in this habitat. Excessive sedimentation is also another concern along with pathogens threats that can find their way into water systems and cause detrimental effects. NRCS works in a way to help both the land owner and the water systems that need prevention or restoration.
Water management 
Water management strives to manage and control the flow of water in a way that is efficient while causing the least amount of damage to life and property. This helps provide protection in high risk areas from flooding. Irrigation water management is the most efficient way to use and recycle water resources for land owners and farmers. Drainage management is the manipulation of sub surface drainage networks in order to properly disperse the water to the correct geographical areas. The NRCS engineering division is constantly making improvements to irrigation systems in a way that incorporates every aspect of water restoration.
Water quality 
A team of highly trained experts on every aspect of water is employed by the NRCS to analyze water from different sources. They work in many areas such as: hydrology and hydraulics, stream restoration, wetlands, agriculture, agronomy, animal waste management, pest control, salinity, irrigation, and nutrients in water.
Watershed program 
Under watershed programs the NRCS works with states, local governments, and tribes by providing funding and resources in order to help restore and also benefit from the programs. They would like to provide: watershed protection, flood mitigation, water quality improvement, soil erosion reduction, irrigation, sediment control, fish and wildlife enhancement, wetland and wetland function creation and restoration, groundwater recharge, easements, wetland and floodplain conservation easements, hydropower, watershed dam rehabilitation.
Plants and animals 
Plants and animals play a huge role in the health of our ecosystems. A delicate balance exists between relationships of plants and animals. If an animal is introduced to an ecosystem that is not native to the region that it could destroy plants or animals that should not have to protect itself from this particular threat. As well as if a plant ends up in a specific area where it should not be it could have adverse effects on the wildlife that try to eat it. NRCS protects the plants and animals because they provide us with food, materials for shelter, fuel to keep us warm, and air to breathe. Without functioning ecosystems we would have none of the things mentioned above. NRCS provides guidance to assist conservationists and landowners with enhancing plant and animal populations as well as helping them deal with invasive species.
Fish and wildlife 
NRCS for years has been working toward restoration, creation, enhancement, and maintenance for aquatic life on the nearly 70% of land that is privately owned in order to keep the habitats and wildlife protected. NRCS with a science based approach, provides equipment to wildlife and fish management. They also do this for landowners who qualify to benefit from these technologies.
Insects and pollinators 
Pollination via insects plays a huge role in the production of food crop and flowering plants. Without pollinators searching for nectar and pollen for food the plants would not produce a seed that will create another plant. NRCS sees the importance of this process so they are taking measures to increase the declining number of pollinators. There are many resources provided from the NRCS that will help any individual do their part in conservation of these important insects. Such as Backyard Conservation which tells an individual exactly how to help by just creating a small habitat in minutes There are many others such as: Plants for pollinators, pollinators habitat in pastures, pollinator value of NRCS plant releases in conservation planting, plant materials publications relating to insects and pollinators, PLANTS database: NRCS pollinator documents. All of these are valuable resources that any individual can take advantage of.
Invasive species and pests 
Many adverse effects are present due to invasive species. Plants and animals both inhabit areas that they are not intended to be. The kudzu vine for example covers miles of foliage. These invasive species cause America's reduction in economic productivity and ecological decline. Humans are unknowingly transporting these invasive species via ships, planes, boats, and their own bodies. NRCS works in collaboration with the plant materials centers scattered throughout the country in order to get a handle on the invasive species of plants.These centers scout out the plants and take measures to control and eradicate them from the particular area. Invasive animals such as feral hog, european gypsy moth, and the sirex woodwasp pose a significant threat to America's wildlife as well as to the health of human beings. The hog was introduced as a food source for humans, but now the swine pandemic is a serious threat to humans. They gypsy moth destroys natural forests that are habitat to many beneficial species. The Woodwasp feeds on pine trees as well as providing a means of transportation for a fungus that kills pine trees.
Livestock management is an area of interest for the NRCS because if not maintained valuable resources such as food, wools, and leather would not be available. The proper maintenance of livestock can also improve soil and water resources by providing a waste management system so that run off and erosion is not a problem. The NRCS provides financial assistance to land owners with grazing land and range land that is used by livestock in order to control the run off of waste into fresh water systems and prevent soil erosion.
Plants are a huge benefit to the health of ecosystems. NRCS offers significant amounts of resources to individuals interested in conserving plants. From databases full of information to financial assistance the NRCS works hard to provide the means needed to do so. The plant materials program, Plant materials centers, Plant materials specialists, PLANTS database, National Plant Data Team (NPDT) are all used together to keep our ecosystems as healthy as possible. This includes getting rid of unwanted species and building up species that have been killed off that are beneficial to the environment. The NRCS utilizes a very wide range of interdisciplinary resources.
The NRCS also utilizes the following disciplines in order to maximize efficiency:
- Air Quality and Atmospheric Change
- Animal Feeding Operations and Confined Animal Feeding Operations
- Conservation Innovation Grants
- Conservation Practices
- Cultural Resources
- Environmental Compliance
- Field Office Technical Guide
- Data and Analysis
- Nutrient Management
- Pest Management
- Range and Pasture
- Social Sciences
- Soils, and Water Resources
These Science-Based technologies are all used together in order to provide the best conservation of natural resources possible.
The NRCS hires a wide range of specialists including: soil conservation technicians, biologists, rangeland management specialist, financial experts, human resource opportunities, and many others that facilitate the NRCS in advancing its effectiveness in conservation services. NRCS offers a service on their website that allows you to see all available positions at a given time, here it will give you the date the position became vacant and when they are planning to fill the position.
Scholarship opportunities 
The NRCS offers various opportunities for students to receive financial support with three scholarship programs available for students. The Tribal Scholars Program offers U.S. citizens the opportunity for aid while working toward a degree in agriculture or one of the other subjects that relate to the NRCS's needs. Recipients must be seek a degree at a 1994 tribal land grant institution. The purpose of this scholarship is to attract more individuals into studying the disciplines that will then allow the NRCS to give employment opportunity. The USDA/1890 Scholarship program is another NRCS program intended to attract more students into one of the eighteen 1890 black land grant institutions by offering financial support for schooling followed by job opportunities upon completion of the degree. This scholarship allows the individual to have a diverse choice in the disciplines of possible study. The Hispanic Public Service Leaders Program promotes public service and allows for the outreach to help undergraduate and graduate students to continue their education. A student who may be interested in this scholarship is seeking employment with the USDA after graduation.
Internship opportunities 
The NRCS employs a system that gives opportunities to individuals seeking to advance in their specified field. The NRCS calls them USDA internship webinars. The internships are frequent there are a few of them monthly. These internships offer students who are currently attending college who are taking Agriculture, Environment, Science, Math, Statistics, and Technology as a discipline a chance to intern for a given time period. The student must be a U.S. citizen along with access to the internet and a computer with speakers.
Supported organizations 
Established in 2006, the GBVPMC serves Nevada, California, and parts of Utah and Oregon. The main purpose of the center is to combat damage done by invasive plant species in the area, which have done great damage to ecosystems in the Great Basin. They also aid in restoring ecosystems damaged by fires, climate change, drought, or other natural disasters. The centers provides native plants to help restore these damaged areas. They also do work developing plant organisms and technologies that are suited for the dry, high salt content soil of the area.
- National Association of Conservation Districts
(NACD) A non-profic agency which serves 3,000 conservation districts across the United States. There about 17,000 employees. The organization works with landowners and public properties to help manage land and water resources. The mission of NACD is to provide leadership and a unified voice for natural resource conservation in the United States. The NACD grew in the 1930s from a statewide operation in Oklahoma, and many independent districts, to a unified National organization in 1946.
See also 
- Conservation Security Program
- Dust Bowl
- Environmental Quality Incentives Program
- Honey Hollow Watershed
- National Cooperative Soil Survey
- U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). Washington, DC. "Soil Survey Programs." Accessed 2009-06-05.
- NRCS. "National Conservation Practice Standards." National Handbook of Conservation Practices. Accessed 2009-06-05.
- Cook, Maurice. "Hugh Hammond Bennett: the Father of Soil Conservation". Department of Soil Science, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. North Carolina State University. Retrieved 30 September 2011.
- "Biography of Hugh Hammond Bennett". NRCS. Retrieved 2008-01-10.
- Soil Conservation and Domestic Allotment Act, P.L. 74-46, 49 Stat. 163, 16 U.S.C. § 590(e), April 27, 1935.
- "Records of the Natural Resources Conservation Service". NARA. Retrieved 2008-01-10.
- Federal Crop Insurance Reform and Department of Agriculture Reorganization Act of 1994, 108 Stat. 3223, October 13, 1994.
- "Great Basin Plant Materials Center". USDA NRCS. Retrieved 22 October 2010.
- Natural Resources Conservation Service - Official site