Productive Lands Healthy Environment by tps10097

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									Helping People Help the Land
   Productive Lands
Healthy Environment

Natural Resources Conservation Service
Strategic Plan 2005-2010
       VISION   Productive Lands—Healthy Environment

     MISSION    Helping People Help the Land

MISSION GOALS   High Quality, Productive Soils
  & OUTCOMES          Soil Quality.
                      The quality of intensively used soils is maintained or enhanced
                      to enable sustained production of a safe, healthy, and abundant
                      food supply.

                Clean and Abundant Water
                       Water Quality.
                       The quality of surface waters and groundwater is improved
                       and maintained to protect human health, support a healthy
                       environment, and encourage a productive landscape.
                       Water Management.
                       Water is conserved and protected to ensure an abundant and
                       reliable supply for the Nation.

                Healthy Plant and Animal Communities
                       Grassland, Rangeland, and Forest Ecosystems.
                       Grassland, rangeland, and forest ecosystems are productive,
                       diverse, and resilient.
                       Fish and Wildlife Habitat.
                       Working lands and waters provide habitat for diverse and
                       healthy wildlife, aquatic species, and plant communities.
                       Wetlands provide quality habitat for migratory birds and
                       other wildlife, protect water quality, and reduce flood damages.

                Clean Air
                       Agriculture makes a positive contribution to local air quality and
                       the Nation’s efforts to sequester carbon.

                An Adequate Energy Supply
                      Agricultural activities conserve energy and agricultural
                      lands are a source of environmentally sustainable biofuels
                      and renewable energy.

                Working Farm and Ranch Lands
                      Connected landscapes sustain a viable agriculture and
                      natural resource quality.

               Cooperative Conservation.
               We will seek and promote cooperative efforts to achieve
               natural resource goals.

               Watershed Approach.
               We will provide information and assistance to encourage and
               enable locally led, watershed-scale conservation efforts.

               Market-based Approach.
               We will facilitate growth of market-based opportunities that
               encourage the private sector to invest in conservation on
               private lands.
About this Document

                 his document describes the long-term goals
                 of the Natural Resources Conservation Service
                 (NRCS), the objectives we will help people
                 achieve in the next five years (2005-2010), and
        the strategies that we have adopted to ensure our efforts
        are effective. The document was developed as part of a
        strategic planning effort designed to assess long-term
        trends and ensure that Agency activities in the next five
        years will contribute to sustaining natural resources in the
        coming decades.

        NRCS has adopted six Mission Goals, each developed with
        input and advice from our partners and stakeholders.
        In developing these goals, we focused on the natural
        resources that form the foundation for healthy lands.
        Our Mission Goals are:

         1: High-quality, Productive Soils
         2: Clean and Abundant Water
         3: Healthy Plant and Animal Communities
         4: Clean Air
         5: An Adequate Energy Supply
         6: Working Farm and Ranch Lands

        Mission Goals articulate in broad terms the benefits
        that the Nation expects to derive from NRCS activities
        and programs. Taken together, the goals describe the
        landscape that Americans want. Mission Goals are not
        conditions to be achieved at a specific point in time.
        Rather, they define the essential natural resource
        setting needed to sustain a high standard of living
        for a dynamic society.
     Mission Goals are characterized as Foundation Goals and Venture Goals.
     Foundation Goals address the land uses and resource concerns that
     have been the primary focus of our activities throughout the Agency’s
     existence and continue to be the foundation of a healthy landscape.
     Venture Goals address resource issues that are growing in importance as a
     result of current economic and demographic trends.

Natural Resource Outcomes further define each Mission Goal, clarifying the
Agency’s focus for that goal.

     Measurable objectives are associated with each goal and outcome. These
     objectives describe how we plan to measure our efforts in the next five
     years. Objectives consist of a performance measure, a quantified target
     for an identified date, and a baseline against which progress can be moni-
     tored. Targets for some Venture Goal objectives are under development
     and will be added to the plan when analytical efforts, now underway,
     provide an adequate basis for documenting Agency performance.

Targets shown in this plan are the aggregate of program-specific, long-range
targets projected by program managers on the basis of current program
authorities, funding levels, and workload. Appendix 1 shows the annual perfor-
mance measures and programs that support each of the objectives in this plan.

     This Strategic Plan is a multi-year map that displays how we plan to
     accomplish each Mission Goal. It provides a mechanism to track our
     progress and make adjustments to our service delivery as we move
     through a step-by-step process from annual performance measures to
     Objectives, Outcomes, and Mission Goals.

To achieve these Mission Goals efficiently and effectively, the Strategic Plan outlines
three key overarching strategies that will be implemented for all Mission Goals.
They are:

• Cooperative Conservation: Seeking and promoting cooperative efforts to achieve
  conservation goals.
• Watershed Approach: Providing information and assistance to encourage and
  enable locally led, watershed scale conservation.
• Market-based Approach: Facilitating the growth of market-based opportunities
  that encourage the private sector to invest in conservation on private lands.

     We believe these strategies will better enable us to help the American
     public be good stewards of the land. Closely linked with one another,
     each strategy is a catalyst to the others, allowing us to explore new and
     creative ways to achieve our goals.
               C O NTE NTS
2 / Vision

3 / Mission
4 / Customers

5 / Guiding Principles
       5 / Service
       6 / Partnership
       6 / Technical Excellence
               7 / Business Lines
8 / Overarching Strategies
       9 / Cooperative Conservation
       10 / Watershed Approach
       13 / Market-based Approach

18 / Mission Goals
       21 / Foundation Goals
              22 / High Quality, Productive Soils
                      23 / Soil Quality
              28 / Clean and Abundant Water
                      30 / Water Quality
                      31 / Water Management
              36 / Healthy Plant and Animal Communities
                      37 / Grassland, Rangeland, and Forest Ecosystems
                      39 / Fish and Wildlife Habitat
                      40 / Wetlands
       45 / Venture Goals
              46 / Clean Air
                      48 /Air Quality
              52 /An Adequate Energy Supply
                      54 /Energy Conservation
                      54 /Renewable Energy and Biofuels
              58 / Working Farm and Ranch Lands
                      61 / Connected Landscapes

67 / Management Initiatives
       68 / Ensuring Civil Rights
              68 / Equal Employment Opportunity
              68 / Fair and Equitable Service Delivery
       69 / Improving Internal Management
              70 / Human Capital
              71 / Electronic Government
              72 / Financial Performance
              73 / Budget and Performance Integration

74 / Appendices

    Guiding Principles
    Overarching Strategies
                   2   VISION

                                Vision:             Productive Lands—Healthy Environment

                                         he foundation of this strategic plan is a vision of the
                                         landscape that Americans want—a landscape in which
                                         a productive agricultural sector and a high-quality
                                         environment are both achieved.

                                Productive use of privately owned cropland, rangeland,
                                pastureland, and forestland is essential to the Nation’s security
                                and the health and well-being of its citizens. Those lands form
                                the foundation of a substantial and vibrant agricultural economy
                                that provides food, fiber, forest products, and energy for the
                                Nation. Those lands can also produce environmental benefits that
                                people need—clean and abundant water, clean air, and healthy
                                ecosystems. Two-thirds of the Nation is in agricultural and forest
                                use and the management of these lands affects the quality of the
                                environment for everyone.

                                America’s farmers, ranchers, woodlot owners, and others involved
                                in America’s working lands strive to produce the multiple benefits
                                that the Nation wants from privately owned land. They do not
                                work in isolation. The Nation’s growing population and economy
                                are making the landscape a mosaic of agricultural and developed
                                areas. In this dynamic landscape of changing land uses,
                                conservation is everyone’s responsibility.
                                Maintaining productive land in
                                harmony with a quality environment
                                is possible if all the people who live on
                                the land see themselves as members of
                                interdependent communities who have
                                responsibilities to their neighbors and
                                responsibilities for the condition of their
                                community. Where natural resource use
                                and management are compatible with
                                the framework of the natural systems
                                of the land, agricultural production can
                                continue unhindered, watersheds can
                                function, wildlife populations can flourish,
                                communities can prosper, and new and
                                old residents alike can enjoy a quality
                                environment.                                       NRCS District Conservationist discusses a
                                                                                        conservation plan with a Virginia landowner.
                                                                                           MISSION   3

                                                                                                         H E A LT H Y E N V I R O N M E N T
                           Mission:               Helping People Help the Land

                                      RCS provides products and services that enable
                                      people to be good stewards of the Nation’s soil,
                                      water, and related natural resources on non-
                                      Federal lands.

                            With our help, people are better able to conserve,
                            maintain, or improve their natural resources.
                            This good stewardship involves actions to:

                            • Maintain the condition of the land through continued
                              good management where adequate conservation is
                              already in place.
                            • Prevent damage to the land where assessment of social,
                              economic, and environmental trends indicates potential
                              for environmental degradation.
                            • Enhance the land for further productivity and
                              environmental health.
                            • Restore the land to health where damage to natural
                              resources has already occurred.

                                       NRCS’ role is to provide technical and
The Natural Resources Con-             financial assistance to help our customers
servation Service (NRCS), is a         care for the land. As a result of our assistance,
technical Agency of the United         land managers and communities take a
States Department of Agriculture       comprehensive approach to the use and
(USDA). NRCS was established           protection of soil, water, and related
in 1935 as the Soil Conserva-          resources in rural, suburban, urban, and
tion Service (SCS) to carry out a      developing areas.
continuing program of soil and
water conservation. The Secretary      The assistance we provide is based on an
of Agriculture organized NRCS in       understanding that the land—the landscape as
1994 through authority provided        a whole—must be the focus of conservation.
in the Federal Crop Insurance          Using this comprehensive approach, the people
Reform and the Department of           we help are able to help the land function as a
Agriculture Reorganization Act         living, sustainable system that provides a high
of 1994. NRCS combines the             standard of living and quality of life today and
authorities of the former SCS as       for future generations.
well as additional programs that
provide financial assistance for
natural resource conservation.
                   4    CUSTOMERS

                                                                               Most of the 12,000 NRCS
                                                                               employees work in nearly 2,900
                                                                               field offices across the Nation,
                       Customers                                               providing services directly to our
                                                                               customers. Field office staff work
                                                                               side-by-side with employees of
                                                                               the local conservation district and
                                                                               State conservation agency. Field

                                                                               offices act as local clearinghouses
                                     e serve, either directly or indirectly,
                                                                               for natural resource information,
                                     all people of the Nation. However, the
                                                                               helping people gain access to
                                     people who make decisions about
                                                                               knowledge and assistance available
                                     natural resource use and management
                                                                               from many sources. Working
                       on non-Federal lands are our primary customers. We
                                                                               one-on-one with landowners and
                       provide the technical assistance and science-based
                                                                               other land managers, field office
                       information that these stewards want to make good
                                                                               employees provide the technical
                       decisions about their natural resources.
                                                                               expertise for conservation planning
                                                                               and design that enables land man-
                       Our primary customers:
                                                                               agers to balance their economic
                                                                               goals with the needs of the natural
                       • Farmers and ranchers, people who own, operate,
                                                                               environment, creating sustainable
                         or live on farms and ranches.
                                                                               systems that not only produce
                       • Other members of the private sector who support       abundant crops and livestock, but
                         production agriculture and natural resource           also a quality environment.
                                                                               Field office employees are
                       • Governments and units of government with
                                                                               supported by NRCS employees
                         responsibility for natural resource use and
                                                                               in other offices that provide
                                                                               technical and administrative
                       • Non-profit organizations whose mission aligns          support, conduct natural resource
                         with aspects of natural resource management.          inventories, and develop new
                                                                               conservation technologies. NRCS
                       These major customer types ask for different             State offices manage Agency
                       products and services, delivered in different ways.      programs in each State and
                       Within each major customer category, there are          coordinate Agency activities with
                       customer segments with different needs.                  the natural resource programs
                                                                               and priorities of State agencies
                                                                               and other Federal agencies.
                                                                               A framework of headquarters,
                                                                               divisions, six national centers,
                                                                               and three national technology
                                                                               support centers ensures that the
                                                                               Agency maintains the ability to
                                                                               consistently provide high-quality,
                                                                               cutting-edge technology.
                                                                                          GUIDING PRINCIPLES   5

                                                                                                                   H E A LT H Y E N V I R O N M E N T
NRCS District Conservationist discusses wetlands conservation with landowners.

                                         Guiding Principles

                                                   hree fundamental principles guide
                                                   how NRCS conducts business
                                                   today and will continue to conduct
                                                   business in the future.


                                                  ur customers are entitled to the best service
                                                  we can provide. We respect the dignity and
                                                  worth of every person we work with, treat all
                                         individuals fairly and equitably, listen to their views,
                                         and respond with assistance tailored to their needs.
                                         We believe that private land users will make respon-
                                         sible resource management decisions when equipped
                                         with appropriate data, technical assistance, and
                                         incentives. Our appreciation of the needs of people is
                                         as important to successful conservation efforts as is
                                         our understanding of natural resources. We continually
                                         strive to anticipate the public need and improve our
                                         service, and we measure our efforts against the highest
                                         professional standards.
                   6       GUIDING PRINCIPLES

                                                                          Technical Excellence:

                                                                               ffective stewardship depends on having
                                                                               science-based information and technology
                                                                               that are up-to-date, easily accessible,
                                                                          and designed to meet user needs.

                       Partnership:                                       We satisfy a broad range of technology and
                                                                          information needs—from conservation “how-tos” for
                                                                          the homeowner to technical standards and tools for
                                                                          conservation professionals. We design conservation
                                                                          practices that help private landowners and managers

                                                                          achieve personal conservation and production
                              onservation can be achieved only by
                                                                          goals and meet their community’s environmental
                              the cooperative effort of agencies,
                                                                          expectations. NRCS technical standards for soil
                              organizations, and individuals across
                                                                          science and soil surveys, conservation engineering,
                       the Nation. We value our relationships with
                                                                          and other specialties are recognized and shared
                       other Federal, State, local, and Tribal resource
                                                                          world-wide. Our National Resources Inventory and
                       agencies and organizations that share
                                                                          Soil Survey databases help scientists and policy
                       common objectives, although our missions
                                                                          makers track natural resource conditions and trends,
                       may differ. We recognize that our traditional
                                                                          information that is essential to conservation policy
                       partners—local conservation districts,
                                                                          and program development.
                       State conservation agencies, and Resource
                       Conservation and Development Councils
                                                                          NRCS’ success depends upon the technical expertise
                       (RC&D)—have been key to past successes
                                                                          of its employees and volunteers and upon their
                       and remain essential to future progress in
                                                                          ability to work effectively with our diverse customer
                       conservation. We maintain a government-
                                                                          base. To ensure that all our employees acquire and
                       to-government relationship with American
                                                                          maintain the skills to be successful, we provide
                       Indian nations. We will bring in new partners
                                                                          appropriate training in management, technical,
                       to work toward common conservation goals.
                                                                          and other disciplines.
                       Local leadership and local action—neighbors
                       working together—form the foundation for
                                                                          We provide our workforce the best work environ-
                       effective land stewardship. We foster the
                                                                          ment possible by creating a culture and climate
                       discussions needed to bring people
                                                                          that welcomes diversity, encourages innovation
                       together in a shared vision for their land
                                                                          and self-development, and rewards creativity and
                       and communities.
                                                                          achievement. We help our partners and volunteers
                                                                          develop and maintain the technical skills needed
                                                                          to provide high-quality service, and we ensure that
                                                                          private-sector technical service providers who help
                                                                          implement our programs work to the same standards
                                                                          as NRCS employees.
                                                                                                       GUIDING PRINCIPLES        7
                    Business Lines and Products and Services

                                                                                                                                      H E A LT H Y E N V I R O N M E N T
                       In fulfilling its stated mission, NRCS provides technical and financial assis-
                       tance to land owners and managers. This technical and financial assistance
                       is delivered through five business lines. Business lines are groups of similar
                       products and services that Agency employees deliver to external customers.
                       There are 15 core products and services under the business lines.

  Business Line        Description

   Conservation        NRCS provides data, information, or technical expertise that helps people collect and analyze information
   Planning and        to identify natural resource problems and opportunities, clarify their objectives, and formulate and
       Technical       evaluate alternatives.
                       • Conservation Plans reflect a customer’s decisions about the management of natural resources for a spe-
                         cific area—which may be a farm or ranch operating unit, a group of units, a community, or a landscape
                         feature such as a watershed.
                       • Technical Consultations and Planning Assistance provide professional advice that helps customers
                         make decisions about natural resource management.

  Conservation         NRCS helps customers install on their land conservation practices and systems that meet established
Implementation         technical standards and specifications.
                       • Designs allow for the application of engineering and management practices (practice survey, practice
                         design, field layout of conservation practices, and so forth).
                       • Follow-up ensures the treatment is working properly and identifies if additional treatment is needed.
                       • Checks and Reviews are formal program status reviews of land where program contracts are in effect or
                         subject to conservation compliance.

Natural Resource       NRCS assesses, acquires, develops, interprets, analyzes, and delivers natural resource data and information
  Inventory and        to enable knowledge-based natural resource planning and decision making at all landscape scales.
                       • Data Gathering Protocols ensure that reliable natural-resource data are acquired and delivered.
                       • Databases and Delivery include the maintenance and delivery of geospatial datasets and information.
                       • Assessments and Analyses include the modeling and interpretation of natural resource data to better
                         inform decision makers and facilitate policy development.

Natural Resource       NRCS develops, documents, and distributes a wide array of technology pertaining to resource assessment,
     Technology        conservation planning, and conservation system installation and evaluation.
                       • Technology Tools include conservation standards, specifications, guides and references, and modeling sys-
                         tems. NRCS has automated much of this technology to facilitate sound conservation decisions by the public.
                       • Training and Certification include technical training to external customers and administration of certifi-
                         cation standards and procedures.
                       • Plant Materials and related technologies provide for better land treatment.

       Financial       NRCS provides financial assistance to encourage the adoption of land treatment practices that have been
      Assistance       proven to provide significant benefits to the public. Financial assistance is awarded to participants who
                       voluntarily enter into contracts, easements, and agreements to conserve natural resources. Financial
                       assistance is provided through:
                       • Cost-share/Incentives;
                       • Easements;
                       • Grants; and
                       • Stewardship Payments.
                   8   OVERARCHING STRATEGIES

                                   Overarching Strategies

                                                RCS activities are guided by broad, unifying strategies
                                                that are consistent with our guiding principles. For the
                                                period of this strategic plan, we have defined three
                                                general strategies. In the next 5 years, we will:

                                   • Seek and promote cooperative efforts to achieve conservation
                                   • Provide information and assistance to encourage and enable
                                     locally led, watershed-scale conservation.
                                   • Facilitate the growth of market-based opportunities that
                                     encourage business and industry to invest in conservation on
                                     private lands.
                                   The first two of these strategies are not new for the Agency.
                                   Our activities have always been cooperative efforts that involved
                                   many partners, and we have long emphasized the importance of
                                   managing natural resources in terms of the natural divisions and
                                   processes of the landscape. The emphasis on the market-based
                                   approach is new, although market principles have been utilized,
                                   to a limited degree, in financial assistance programs.

                                   The three strategies are inter-related and will be implemented as
                                   a seamless process. In the upcoming 5 years, we will:

                                   • Pursue partnerships that encourage the private sector to invest
                                     in conservation;
                                   • Strengthen our technical capacity to enable the private sector
                                     to invest in conservation on private lands; and
                                   • Encourage market-based pilot projects that test new and
                                     innovative conservation technology within the private sector.
                 Locally led, watershed-scale conservation is an overarching strategy of NRCS.

Cooperative Conservation              managers, and officials at the                 • Increase our investment in
We believe that enduring              local level, we are able to facili-            developing the resource
conservation is achieved only         tate locally led conservation                  information and analytical
by the cooperative efforts             efforts that meet local goals                   and planning tools that
of individuals, agencies,             and serve the broader national                 cooperating agencies and
and organizations across              interest.                                      organizations, State and
the Nation. For over 70                                                              local governments, and
years, NRCS has worked                Today, there is growing                        Tribes can use to reach
cooperatively with its                appreciation for the                           consensus on natural
partners to help people get           effectiveness of cooperative                    resource goals and take
conservation on the land.             approaches that conserve and                   action to achieve their goals.
                                      protect natural resources. We
                                                                                   • Expand our efforts to
NRCS, conservation districts,         will use our experience and
                                                                                     broaden the conservation
State conservation agencies,          network of partnerships to
                                                                                     partnership and build new
and RC&D councils represent           reach new partners and open
                                                                                     alliances. We will conduct a
a unique Federal, State, and          channels of communication
                                                                                     dialog with our conservation
local partnership dedicated to        among stakeholders at all levels.
                                                                                     partners to develop
natural resource conservation.        Increasing our cooperative
                                                                                     strategies to make our joint
The one-on-one assistance             conservation efforts will
                                                                                     actions more efficient.
this partnership provides to          require that we strengthen
farmers and ranchers forms            certain Agency business                      • Enable strong local conser-
a foundation for cooperative          lines and human capital                        vation leadership, working
conservation. Known and               development efforts. We will:                   with partners who have
trusted by landowners,                                                               responsibility for State and
                   10      OVERARCHING STRATEGIES

                          local long-range planning,        responsibilities to coordinate   By using a cooperative,
                          in Nation-to-Nation rela-         program development and          scientifically-based watershed
                          tionships with Tribes, and        delivery, and to accelerate      approach, we will help
                          with local organizations          cooperative conservation at      ensure the most productive
                          that have a stake in natural      the local level.                 use of financial investments
                          resource conservation.                                             that address water quality,
                                                          • Pursue partnerships
                        • Improve the quality of                                             water supply, flooding, and
                                                            with varied interests, to
                          cooperative conservation                                           aquatic habitat conservation.
                                                            strengthen and collaborate
                          programs and initiatives by                                        Managing our programs
                                                            in research efforts and to
                          playing a more proactive                                           at the watershed level will
                                                            encourage pilot efforts in
                          role in providing technical                                        provide a way to integrate
                                                            areas of resource concern,
                          advice in decision-making                                          NRCS program activities with
                                                            new to NRCS such as air
                          arenas at all levels.                                              other Federal, Tribal, State, and
                                                            quality, invasive species, and
                                                                                             local activities to achieve the
                        • Commit the resources              energy conservation.
                                                                                             greatest results.
                          needed to enable staff
                          to develop the necessary        Watershed Approach                 Protecting watershed
                          skills to serve as catalysts    We believe that a locally led,     health begins with a local
                          and coordinators at the         watershed-based approach to        commitment to joint
                          local level. Cooperative        resource management on pri-        action to prevent or solve a
                          conservation—building           vate lands is key to conserving    resource problem of major
                          coalitions—requires a           natural resources. This approach   community importance.
                          substantial investment          will benefit both inland and        Where local communities have
                          of staff time to work            coastal communities.               developed a vision for their
                          with stakeholders to                                               local watershed and reached
                          define conditions, foster        Decisions about the use            consensus on priorities for
                          communication among all         and management of natural          action, we can tailor assistance
                          parties, and inform people      resources are best made by         to meet those priority needs.
                          on the issues and options.      focusing on the functioning of     In communities where a vision
                        • Improve skills required         natural systems within a land-     has not been developed, we
                          to facilitate cooperative       scape. Watersheds provide the      will promote the concept of
                          conservation activities         context within which we can        watershed planning. When
                          through hiring and              meaningfully evaluate aquatic      helping local leaders assess
                          employee development            habitats and the movement          conditions and evaluate
                          and reward employees            of water, nutrients, sediment,     options, NRCS provides
                          for achievements in             and energy through the             information about how the
                          cooperative ventures.           landscape. They are universal,     local watershed affects, and
                                                          well-defined areas that provide     is affected by, conditions and
                        • Collaborate with Federal,       a common basis for discussion      events in other parts of the
                          Tribal, and State agencies as   of water, related resources, and   larger watershed or river basin
                          well as others with natural     landscape processes.               system of which it is a part.
                          resource management
                                                                                        OVERARCHING STRATEGIES       11

                                                                                                                          H E A LT H Y E N V I R O N M E N T
We are committed to providing          development of new business                    conditions, analyze options,
services on a watershed basis          lines or changes in our organi-                and develop consensus on
to enable people to assess their       zational structure. We will:                   solutions.
natural resource conditions,
                                                                                   • Enable Agency staff to
evaluate alternatives,                 • Invest in employee
                                                                                     develop the necessary skills
implement solutions, and                 development, technology
                                                                                     to serve as catalysts for
measure success.                         development, and data
                                                                                     watershed plans. Facilitating
                                         collection that will be
                                                                                     local efforts on a watershed
Providing assistance on a                needed to enable the
                                                                                     basis requires a substantial
watershed basis requires that            watershed approach to
                                                                                     investment of staff time in
we enhance products in our               succeed for both inland and
                                                                                     working with stakeholders,
inventory and assessment and             coastal communities.
                                                                                     as well as a high degree of
technology transfer business
                                       • Enhance Agency capability                   expertise in a wide range of
lines, and that we strengthen
                                         to provide data at a variety                technical disciplines.
our capability to provide
                                         of watershed scales and
watershed planning assistance                                                      • Utilize a progressive and
                                         to assist in analyzing data.
and technical consultations                                                          iterative approach to
                                         Watershed-scale planning
with communities and                                                                 watershed-scale planning.
                                         requires data and analytical
groups. It does not require the                                                      Planning assistance occurs
                                         tools to help assess

                  The best natural resources decision-making focuses on the function of natural systems.
                   12      OVERARCHING STRATEGIES

                          along a continuum and can              and financial assistance                         transfer, data access and
                          be provided at various levels          may be available to assist                      development, and technol-
                          of intensity, depending on             local groups in rapid                           ogy development.
                          the scope and complexity of            watershed assessment.
                                                                                                            • Develop improved indices
                          the resource problems, the             Rapid watershed
                                                                                                              for watershed baseline
                          target audience, available             assessment will be used as
                                                                                                              conditions, and strengthen
                          technologies, and local                a platform for conservation
                                                                                                              our ability to measure the
                          interest and commitment.               program delivery.
                                                                                                              effects of conservation treat-
                        • Utilize rapid watershed              • Utilize the multi-disciplinary               ment on watershed health.
                          assessments to evaluate                expertise of NRCS employ-
                                                                                                            • Collect data and document
                          natural resource conditions            ees and partners to expand
                                                                                                              conservation practice and
                          and tailor the delivery                the local delivery system
                                                                                                              program results by watershed
                          of NRCS services on a                  and initiate cross-agency
                                                                                                              boundaries in addition to
                          watershed basis. Technical             coordination for technology
                                                                                                              State and county boundaries.

                                            Upland terraces control soil erosion in a small watershed project.
                                                                                      OVERARCHING STRATEGIES         13

                                                                                                                          H E A LT H Y E N V I R O N M E N T
Market-based Approach                   Americans value the                        contribute money to improve
We believe that the voluntary,          environment. They want clean               local streams, preserve land,
incentive-based approach                water, clean air, and healthy              and protect wildlife.
is the most effective                    wildlife populations. And
method of achieving sound               they are willing to invest in              Lack of reliable information
resource management and                 protecting the things they                 about the benefits produced
conservation on private lands.          value. People in many kinds of             by specific conservation
                                        private-sector organizations               actions hinders development
                                                                                   of environmental markets.
                                                                                   To ensure that government
                                                                                   programs provide the
                                                                                   best return on taxpayers
                                                                                   investments in conservation,
                                                                                   natural resources agencies are
                                                                                   quantifying the environmental
                                                                                   effects of conservation actions
                                                                                   and comparing the benefits
                                                                                   and costs of management
                                                                                   options. Reliable information
                                                                                   is not only improving the
                                                                                   management of public
                                                                                   programs but creating
                                                                                   opportunities for markets
                                                                                   to play a role in accelerating
                                                                                   conservation on private land.

                                                                                   Markets for some types
                                                                                   of environmental credits
                                                                                   already exist. Opportunities
                                                                                   for farmers and ranchers to
                                                                                   participate in environmental
                                                                                   credit trading for reduction
              Conducting a water test in the Native Alaskan village of Nanwalek.   of total maximum daily loads
                                                                                   (TMDL) pollutants and for
                                                                                   carbon sequestration are
                                                                                   expected to increase. In the
                                                                                   future, businesses or private
                                                                                   organizations may be able to
                                                                                   buy credits for clean water,
                                                                                   greenhouse gases, or wetlands
                                                                                   as easily as investors buy corn
                                                                                   or soybeans today.
                   14      OVERARCHING STRATEGIES

                        This type of approach                the point that public funds       becoming the source of
                        leverages conservation               should be invested.               incentives for others to
                        payments from the private                                              work on the cooperative
                                                           • Work with partners
                        sector, replacing the need                                             undertaking. For example,
                                                             to identify and assess
                        for public program dollars.                                            farmers in the upper
                                                             opportunities for private
                        We will promote the use of                                             Mississippi can protect
                                                             sector investment in
                        environmental credit trading                                           water quality by plugging
                        and voluntary reporting                                                tile drains over the winter to
                                                             conservation. For example,
                        registries.                                                            prevent the off-site delivery
                                                             a city could weigh the
                                                                                               of nitrogen. Hunting groups
                                                             cost of treatment facilities
                        Credit trading, however, is only                                       could pay the cost of the
                                                             against the cost of applying
                        one way we will introduce                                              temporary plugging in order
                                                             conservation on the land in
                        market principles into public                                          to improve habitat for ducks
                                                             the watershed, as did the
                        investment in conservation.                                            and enhance their hunting
                                                             New York City Watershed,
                        We will focus on developing                                            experience.
                                                             and buy the least costly
                        and implementing innovative,
                                                             option.                         • Enable greater efficiency in
                        market-based approaches
                                                                                               market-based conservation
                        within the context of existing     • Apply a market-based
                                                                                               efforts that have long been
                        programs and activities.             approach to participation
                                                                                               conducted by the private
                        We will:                             in conservation programs,
                                                             recognizing that the transfer
                        • Help provide the                   of public funds to program      • Strengthen our internal
                          information necessary for          participants can be treated       capability to facilitate
                          markets to function by             as a market transaction—a         market-based conservation
                          increasing our investment          willing buyer purchasing          by:
                          in the technology and              a defined product from a          • Conducting outreach,
                          research needed to evaluate        willing seller for a mutually      education, technology
                          and measure benefits                satisfactory price.                transfer, and partnership-
                          and costs of conservation                                             building activities.
                                                           • Ensure that a market-
                          treatment. Consistent and          based approach is used to        • Conducting pilots to
                          reliable measurements              determine the proper level         stimulate interest in
                          of conservation benefits            of public investment in any        market-based concepts.
                          will encourage private             conservation effort.
                          investment.                                                         • Documenting and
                                                           • Identify situations in             disseminating case studies
                        • Establish the National             which innovative thinking          to the work-force and
                          Natural Resources                  can create conservation            potential new partners.
                          Conservation Foundation to         projects that serve multiple
                          help support development           purposes, with the benefits       • Creating a handbook and
                          of innovative technology                                              training materials on the
                                                             received by one party              market-based approach.
                          that has not yet matured to
The Malpai Borderlands Group’s GrassBank project is a locally-led, cooperative effort.
Mission Goals
Mission Goals

                             ission Goals and natural resource
                             outcomes in this plan articulate
                             in broad terms the benefits that
                             the Nation expects to derive from
               our activities and programs. Taken together,
               our mission goals describe the landscape that
               Americans want. This is a landscape in which:

               • Soils are protected against damage by erosion
                 and other forms of degradation.
               • Water is protected against contamination and
                 is managed efficiently to serve many uses.
               • The air is clear and free of harmful substances.
               • Agricultural crops and livestock are healthy and
                 well managed.
               • Natural plant communities are vigorous
                 and varied and shelter healthy and complex
                 communities of animals.
                   20   MISSION GOALS

                                                       Productive soils are a long-standing NRCS Mission Goal.

                                        Our Mission Goals are not time-bound; they are
                                        not conditions to be achieved at a specific point
                                        in time. Rather, they define the essential natural
                                        resource setting needed to sustain a high standard
                                        of living for a dynamic society. Outcome statements
                                        expand on the concise Mission Goal title.

                                        The objectives for each natural resource outcome
                                        described in this plan relate to separate resource
                                        conditions that authorizing legislation directs our
                                        programs to help people address. Objectives define
                                        measurable targets against which our long-term
                                        effectiveness can be evaluated.

                                        Although identifying clearly differentiated
                                        objectives is essential to reaching agreement on
                                        the priorities of public programs, resources don’t
                                        exist independently in the landscape. Everything is
                                        connected to everything else. NRCS conservation
                                        planners help people assess all components
                                        of the landscape—soil, water, air, plants, and
                                        animals—and encourage them to develop a
                                        resource management system that will protect
                                        the resource base while meeting
                                        economic objectives.

                                        In this plan, Mission Goals are grouped as
                                        “Foundation Goals” and “Venture Goals”:

                                        • Foundation Goals include goals for the land uses
                                          and resource concerns that have always been the
                                          primary focus of our activities and continue to be
                                          the foundation of a healthy landscape.
                                        • Venture Goals address resource issues that are
                                          growing in importance as a result of current
                                          economic and demographic trends.
                                                  MISSION GOALS   21

                                                                       H E A LT H Y E N V I R O N M E N T
Foundation Goals

      he three Mission Goals in this section address the
      natural resources that have been a major focus of
      NRCS work from the beginning:

• High-quality, Productive Soils;
• Clean and Abundant Water; and
• Healthy Plant and Animal Communities.

High-quality productive soils and abundant supplies of
clean water are the essential building blocks for production
agriculture and life. The native plant communities of
grasslands, rangelands, and forests, as well as the varied
wildlife communities that inhabit the Nation’s land and
waters, are also national assets that must be sustained.

The NRCS has decades of experience in helping farmers and
ranchers apply conservation practices to prevent soil erosion
and protect soil quality, improve their management of
water resources, protect watersheds against flood damages,
improve the condition of grazing land, and enhance wildlife
habitat. We have assessed the condition of these resources
over time, and can measure progress toward the outcomes
for these goals. This plan identifies long-term, measurable
objectives for each outcome.

Conservation applied to achieve these objectives will
contribute to progress on Venture Goals as well.
Foundation Goals:

High-quality, Productive   Soils
                                                                       MISSION GOALS   23

                                                                                            H E A LT H Y E N V I R O N M E N T

                            healthy land begins with healthy soils. Soil
                            quality describes the capacity of a soil to sustain
                            plant and animal productivity, maintain or
                     enhance water and air quality, and support human
                     health and habitation. High-quality soils are the
                     foundation of productive croplands, forest lands, and
                     grasslands, and a vibrant and productive agriculture.

                                   The dynamic nature of soil properties
Outcome: The quality of            means that soil quality is affected by
intensively used soils is          management. Controlling erosion,
maintained or enhanced to          minimizing soil disturbance and
enable sustained production of     compaction, and managing plants and
a safe, healthy and abundant       soil organic matter are all essential to
food supply.
                                   maximizing soil quality and function for
Objective: By 2010, farmers will
                                   agricultural and environmental benefits.
manage 70 percent of cropland
under systems that maintain
or improve soil condition and
increase soil carbon.

Baseline: In 2003, 60 percent of
cropland was managed under             Soil Quality—People have differ-
systems that maintained or             ent ideas of what quality soil is.
improved soil condition and            For example:
increased soil carbon.
                                         • For production agriculture, it
                                           may mean highly productive
                                           land, sustaining or enhancing
                                           productivity, maximizing
                                           profits, or maintaining the soil
                                           resource for future generations;

                                         • For consumers, it may mean
                                           plentiful, healthful, and
                                           inexpensive food for present
                                           and future generations;

                                         • For naturalists, it may mean
                                           soil in harmony with the
                                           landscape and its surroundings;

                                         • For environmentalists, it
                                           may mean soil functioning at
                                           its potential to maintain or
                                           enhance biodiversity, water
                                           quality, nutrient cycling, and
                                           biomass production.
                   24      MISSION GOALS

                        Situation                        ����������������������������������������������������������������������

                        Key indicators of the
                        quality of cropland and            ���
                        pastureland soils are
                        erosion rates and organic
                        content of the soil. Many          ���
                        practices that reduce
                        erosion also maintain              ���
                        or increase soil organic
                        matter. Soil organic matter
                        improves soil structure            ���
                        and overall capacity to
                        hold water and nutrients.          ���
                                                                       ����             ����              ����        ����        ����
                        Increasing soil organic
                        matter content also can                                           ���������������������
                        reduce atmospheric carbon                ������������������������������������������������
                        dioxide levels.

                        Grazing land soil quality
                        is also affected by grazing
                        management. Proper               underlying geology and                            Tribes, and local governments
                        grazing management can           water flow patterns. However,                      and organizations. Strategic
                        minimize erosion potential       salinity problems also can                        emphases will accelerate
                        and soil compaction, and         arise from poor irrigation                        progress toward our goals.
                        promote healthy plant growth     management or landscape
                        to foster soil organic matter    alterations that affect natural                    Current Conservation
                        accumulation. Diversified plant   vegetation or hydrology.                          Management
                        communities can provide
                                                                                                           NRCS works with producers to
                        good forage, extend grazing
                                                         Key Tasks                                         plan and apply conservation
                        seasons, and offer resilience
                                                                                                           systems to protect and
                        during dry periods and
                                                         For 70 years, NRCS has been                       improve their soils.
                                                         assisting farmers, ranchers,                      Conservation practices, such
                                                         and other land managers to                        as residue management, cover
                        Protecting soil quality also
                                                         understand their soils and                        crops, and crop rotations, as
                        includes management that
                                                         apply soil conserving systems                     well as range, pasture, and
                        addresses salinity, which
                                                         and practices. In the period                      forest land management, have
                        impairs plant productivity
                                                         covered by this strategic plan,                   helped reduce erosion and
                        and can render the land
                                                         our current conservation                          improved soil condition.
                        unsuitable for agriculture.
                                                         efforts will be continued, as
                        Some soils are saline because
                                                         will our partnerships with                        In addition, NRCS helps
                        of natural factors such as
                                                         Federal and State agencies,                       producers reduce the potential
                                                                                                MISSION GOALS         25

                                                                                                                           H E A LT H Y E N V I R O N M E N T
for farming operations to               Strategic Emphases                         • Revising technical guidance
degrade soil quality. Examples          To help producers increasingly               and training Agency and
include providing assistance for:       manage for soil quality,                     partners’ employees;
                                        NRCS will:                                 • Emphasizing soil condition
• Farming practices that
                                                                                     criteria, such as organic
  optimize the use of                   1. Expand the focus of techni-               matter, in program
  equipment and reduce soil             cal assistance and program                   guidance; and
  compaction;                           activities to emphasize
                                        management for soil quality.               • Encouraging participants
• Adoption of diversified
                                        Actions will include:                        in USDA programs to adopt
  cropping systems;
                                                                                     resource management
• Improving irrigation water            • Providing technical                        techniques that manage
  management to avoid                     information to carry                       for soil quality rather than
  salinity and reduce irrigation-         out watershed-wide                         erosion alone.
  induced erosion; and                    environmental education
• Planning and implementing               and awareness initiatives on             2. Develop data and analytical
  compliance plans for highly             the environmental benefits                tools to support soil quality
  erodible lands.                         of enhanced soil quality and             protection and improvement.
                                          on practices that improve                Actions will include:
                                          soil condition;
                                                                                   • Accelerating soil surveys
                                                                                     and soil survey updates in
                                                                                     areas of the country where
                                                                                     better or more current
                                                                                     information is needed to
                                                                                     support efforts to focus on
                                                                                     soil quality;
                                                                                   • Monitoring soil quality
                                                                                     and validating soil qual-
                                                                                     ity improvements. Current
                                                                                     tools allow estimates of soil
                                                                                     carbon trends on cropland
                                                                                     and pastureland; we will
                                                                                     continue research aimed at
                                                                                     providing tools to address
                                                                                     indicators for additional soil
                                                                                     properties and for addition-
                                                                                     al land uses; and
                                                                                   • Developing field-scale tools
                NRCS field employees assess soil condition on a banana plantation     to enable producers to
                near Hilo, Hawaii.                                                   assess costs and benefits
                                                                                     associated with various soil-
                                                                                     enhancing practices.
                   26      MISSION GOALS

                                                                                          Soils Information Enables
                                                                                          Cooperative Action

                                                                                          Soils information is an
                                                                                          important decision-
                                                                                          making tool for planning
                                                                                          across the landscape,
                                                                                          not just on agricultural
                                                                                          land. Engineers,
                                                                                          zoning commissions,
                                                                                          homeowners, developers,
                                                                                          and others use our
                                                                                          information to help make
                                                                                          good land management

                                                                                          NRCS leads the National
                                                                                          Cooperative Soil Survey
                                                                                          (NCSS)—a nationwide
                                                                                          partnership of Federal,
                                                                                          regional, Tribal, State,
                                                                                          and local agencies and
                                                         4. Accelerate understanding      institutions. This partner-
                        3. Cooperate in the
                                                         and adoption of precision        ship works cooperatively
                        development of innovative
                                                         farming technology through:      to investigate, inventory,
                        technologies that enhance soil
                                                                                          document, classify, and
                        quality and help achieve other
                                                         • Partnering with private        interpret soils and to
                        environmental goals, such as
                                                           sector entities, such as       disseminate and promote
                        reducing atmospheric carbon,
                                                           equipment manufacturers,       the use of information
                                                           to provide information and     about the soils of the
                                                           demonstrate the soil quality   United States and its Trust
                        • Agreements with Federal,
                                                           benefits of precision farming   Territories.
                          Tribal, State, local, and
                          private entities to engage       and reduced tillage; and
                                                                                          NRCS provides the
                          in research to develop basic   • Encouraging the private        scientific expertise to en-
                          science;                         sector to develop precision    able the NCSS to develop
                        • Grants for pilot testing and     farming technology for         and maintain a uniform
                          adapting new technology          small equipment and small      system for mapping and
                          for on-farm use.                 operations.                    assessing soil resources, so
                                                                                          that soil information from
                                                                                          different locations can be
                                                                                          shared easily.
                                     MISSION GOALS

Foundation Goals:

Clean and Abundant   Water


                                                                                        MISSION GOALS   29

                                                                                                             H E A LT H Y E N V I R O N M E N T

                                      he Nation’s abundant freshwater supply is distributed
                                      unevenly across the landscape, throughout the seasons,
                                      and from year to year. In many areas, concerns are
                                growing about the adequacy of the available ground and
                                surface water supply and the quality of the water to support
                                intended uses. Coupled with these concerns are the threats to
                                public health and safety caused by floods and drought.

Outcome: The quality of surface waters and       As the single largest user of land and water
groundwater is improved and maintained           resources, agriculture has a significant role in
to protect human health, support a healthy       water management. Well-cared-for watersheds
environment, and encourage a productive          are fundamental to ensuring clean and
landscape.                                       abundant water resources. Comprehensive
                                                 watershed planning, undertaken by local
Objective: By 2010, agricultural producers       residents and based on local natural
will reduce potential delivery of sediment and
                                                 resource conditions, provides a basic tool
nutrients from their operations.
                                                 for communities to manage for reliable and
  • Indicator: By 2010, potential sediment       adequate supplies of clean water.
    delivery from agricultural operations will
    be reduced by 70 million tons.               NRCS has established objectives for sediment
                                                 and nutrient reduction as indicators of
  • Baseline: In 2003, potential sediment        the general trend in managing potential
    delivery was 970 million tons from
    agricultural operations.
                                                 agricultural challenges to water quality. We
                                                 are conducting studies to better determine
  • Indicator: By 2010, potential delivery of    the effects of conservation practices on
    nitrogen from agricultural operations will   water quality. When data are available, the
    be reduced by 375,000 tons.                  current objectives may be replaced with
                                                 more comprehensive indicators of improved
  • Baseline: In 2003, potential annual          watershed health.
    nitrogen delivery from agricultural opera-
    tions was an estimated 6 million tons.

  • Indicator: By 2010, potential delivery of
    phosphorus from agricultural operations
    will be reduced by 70,000 tons.

  • Baseline: In 2003, potential annual
    phosphorus delivery from agricultural
    operations was an estimated 360,000 tons.        Outcome: Water is conserved and protected
                                                     to ensure an abundant and reliable supply
                                                     for the Nation.

                                                       • Objective: By 2010, conserve 8 million
                                                         acre-feet of water.

                                                       • Baseline: In 2005, an estimated 2.5
                                                         million acre-feet of water were conserved.
                   30         MISSION GOALS

                        Situation                                                                       most extensive agricultural                                                                                              Pathogens and pharmaceuti-
                                                                                                        contaminants affecting                                                                                                    cals from livestock and poultry
                        Water Quality                                                                   surface water quality, while                                                                                             operations are emerging water
                        In many watersheds where                                                        nutrients and agrichemicals                                                                                              quality issues. With continuing
                        water quality problems have                                                     are the major concerns for                                                                                               concentration trends in animal
                        been identified, sources of                                                      groundwater.                                                                                                             agriculture, concerns about
                        impairment include point                                                                                                                                                                                 the potential for impairment
                        sources such as discharge                                                       Nitrogen and phosphorus are                                                                                              of water and air resources
                        pipes and nonpoint sources                                                      the primary nutrients that                                                                                               have increased.
                        such as runoff from city                                                         contribute to agricultural
                        streets, residential areas, and                                                 nonpoint source pollution in                                                                                             Agriculture activities may also
                        agricultural lands.                                                             lakes, streams, and oceans.                                                                                              contribute to water quality
                                                                                                        Excessive nitrogen and                                                                                                   problems, associated with
                        Agricultural runoff can                                                          phosphorus in waterways                                                                                                  selenium and salinity.
                        carry a number of potential                                                     can cause algal blooms that                                                                                              In slightly elevated
                        pollutants into the Nation’s                                                    decrease the amount of                                                                                                   concentrations, selenium,
                        streams, lakes, ground water                                                    dissolved oxygen needed                                                                                                  a naturally occurring trace
                        supplies, and estuaries. States                                                 to sustain aquatic life. In the                                                                                          element, is toxic to fish and
                        and Tribes have identified                                                       extreme, a hypoxic condition                                                                                             other aquatic and terrestrial
                        sediment and nutrients as the                                                   can develop where excessive                                                                                              organisms. Increased salinity
                                                                                                        nutrients are present.                                                                                                   in surface water from irriga-
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 tion return flow can threaten
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 drinking water quality and
                        Map 1. Priority Cropland Acres with Highest Potential for Soil Loss, Nutrient Loss,
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 negatively impact aquatic life.
                               and Soil Quality Degradation.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Temperature also has an
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 impact on water quality.
                                                                                                                                                                        . La
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Significant changes occur to
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 a stable aquatic ecosystem

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 when the vegetative canopy
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 is removed. Stream segments
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 with little to no canopy have
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 elevated water temperatures
                                                                                                                                                                                                         Number of Onsite
                                                                                                                                                                                                         Outcomes with
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 due to increased exposure to
                                                                                                                                                                                                         Most Critical 15%
                                                                                                                                                                                                         of Cropland Acres       solar ultraviolet (UV) radiation.
                          (No Data)                                                                                                                                                                          Over 4
                        (No Data) Northern                                                                                                                                                                   1 or less
                                  Marianas                                                       Note: Data were aggregated t o 8 by 8 kilo meter cel ls
                                                                                                 (24.7 square miles). See t ex t for ex planation o f how the
                                                                                                                                                                                                             Region boundaries
                                                                                                                                                                                                             Major rivers
                                Guam                                                             map and t he es timates were made.
                                                                                                                                                                                                             State boundaries
                        American Samoa                                                        Onsite Envir onmental Outcomes
                                                                                    Per-Acre Sediment l oss from water erosion
                                                                                    Per-Acre Wind erosion rate *(Most critical 6%)
                                                                                                                                                           Puerto Rico/U.S. Virgin Islands
                                                      Alaska                   --   Per-Acre Nitrogen lost with waterborn e sediment
                                                                                                                                                           (No Data)
                                                                               --   Per-Acre Nitrogen dissolved in surface water runoff
                                                      (No Data)                --   Per-Acre Nitrogen dissolved in leachate
                                                                               --   Per-Acre Phosphorus lost with waterborne sediment
                                                                               --   Per-Acre Phosphorus diss olved in surface water runoff
                                                                               --   Soil q uality degradation indicator

                              Source: Potter, Steven R., Dean Oman, Lee Norfleet, Jerry Lemunyon, Robert Kellogg, Jay Atwood, and Susan Andrews.
                                      2006 (forthcoming). Model Simulation of Soil Loss, Nutrient Loss, and Change in Soil Organic Carbon Associated
                                      with Crop Production. United States Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service. In press.
                                                                                                          MISSION GOALS                  31

                                                                                                                                              H E A LT H Y E N V I R O N M E N T
                            Water Management                                         and associated water demand
                            Each year, droughts and                                  increases. In flood-prone
                            floods affect some part                                    or drought-stricken areas,
Great Lakes Regional        of the Nation. Land use                                  preparedness planning efforts
Collaboration               changes affecting hydrology                               are needed to minimize
Initiative                  can diminish water supply,                               potential for adverse impacts.
                            increase flood risks, and pose
As part of a Great          risks to agriculture, natural                            Agriculture is one of
Lakes Interagency           systems, and human health                                the largest users of the
Task Force, NRCS is         and safety. Development                                  Nation’s surface water and
partnering with Tribes,     generally expands the                                    groundwater, with irrigation
Great Lakes States, and     impervious surfaces in                                   being the greatest use. In
local interests to design   a watershed, reducing                                    2000, almost 34 percent
a strategy to restore       infiltration opportunities                                of the water withdrawn
and protect the largest     and increasing risks from                                from surface water and
freshwater system in        accelerated runoff.                                       groundwater was used in
the world. Building                                                                  irrigated agriculture.
on a broad collection       Some areas that once had
of existing efforts to       plentiful water supplies are                             In arid and semi-arid areas,
improve and restore the     now beginning to experience                              crop production depends
Great Lakes, the Great      shortages as development                                 almost entirely on irrigation.
Lakes Interagency
Task Force coordinates
the development of
consistent Federal
policies, strategies,
projects, and priorities
for addressing the
restoration and
protection of the Great
Lakes system.
                                 �������������������������������          �����������������������                     ��

                                 ����������������                  ��                             ���������������������������

                                 ���������������                     �

Competition for water in these       investment and accelerate       • Erosion control practices
areas is increasing as a result      action to ensure clean and        keep sediment and
of increased human popula-           abundant water resources to       nutrients from the Nation’s
tions. In recent years, irrigation   meet the Nation’s needs.          waters. Other practices
has been increasing in eastern                                         applied specifically to
States, resulting in water           Current Conservation              protect surface water
shortages in several States.         Management                        include filter strips and
                                     As the leading Federal agency     other types of buffers along
Key Tasks                            for assisting in restoring        streambanks, wetlands, and
                                     watershed health on private       shorelines.
A long-standing priority for         land, NRCS provides technical   • Comprehensive nutrient
NRCS, in partnership with            and financial assistance to        management plans
many different entities, is           producers who implement           minimize potential for
assisting individuals and            conservation practices and        nutrient and pathogen
communities with managing            management strategies that        losses from animal feeding
a stable and safe water              benefit water quality and          operations.
supply. These cooperative            improve water management.
efforts have been marked                                              • Efficient irrigation systems,
by substantial gains over            Agricultural producers            such as micro-irrigation
the past decades. Many of            can efficiently use water,          and low-pressure sprinkler
our ongoing conservation             promote water storage, and        systems, can reduce water
management efforts will               minimize potential loss of        need, risk of irrigation-
be sustained, as will our            sediment and nutrients from       induced erosion, and
partnerships. Increased              their operations by applying      energy costs, while
efforts will complement this          conservation practices.           maintaining yields. Water
  management                                                                           NRCS also provides
  plans, including                                                                     leadership and
  evapotranspiration                                                                   assistance for
  management,                                                                          cooperative action
  address salinity.                                                                    on a watershed
• Restoring or                                                                         basis. We help
  creating wetlands in                                                                 communities use
  strategic locations                                                                  a comprehensive
  can improve ground                                                                   watershed
  and surface water                                                                    approach that
  quality and help                                                                     provides multiple
  manage water                                                                         natural resource
  quantity.                                                                            and societal
                                                                                       benefits. These
• Restoring riparian              Efficient irrigation systems help save water and
                                  decrease leaching of salts.                          benefits include
  buffers to reduce UV                                                                  the reduction of
  radiation can have                                                                   water treatment
  beneficial effects                                                                     costs, the
  on shallow streams,                                                                  improvement of
  especially during late-       • Controlling invasive species             freshwater aquatic habitats,
  summer, low-flow periods         can improve water availability.          and the enhancement of
  when dissolved oxygen                                                    coastal health and near-shore
  concentrations are reduced.   • Land use planning can
                                                                           aquatic habitats, which
                                  mitigate the effects of
                                                                           also serve to benefit local
                                  drought or floods.
                   34   MISSION GOALS

                                        Cooperative Action Provides Essential Data for
                                        Water Management

                                        Managing water resources to maintain or improve
                                        water quality and to balance competing demand
                                        requires cooperation among Federal, Tribal, State,
                                        and local agencies and private organizations.
                                        Good management relies on accurate and timely
                                        information. NRCS, in partnership with other
                                        Federal and State agencies, conducts snow surveys
                                        to provide information on future water supplies
                                        in 12 western States and Alaska. NRCS field
                                        staff collect and analyze data on depth and water
                                        equivalent of snowpack from more than 900 snow
                                        courses and 700 automated mountain sites, and
                                        estimate annual water availability, spring runoff,
                                        and summer streamflows. The National Weather
                                        Service includes the forecasts in their river
                                        forecasting function.

                                        Individuals, organizations, and State and Federal
                                        agencies use these forecasts for decisions relating
                                        to agricultural production, fish and wildlife
                                        management, municipal and industrial water
                                        supply, urban development, flood control,
                                        recreation power generation, and water quality
                                        management. Major cooperators include the
                                        Bureau of Reclamation; Army Corps of Engineers;
                                        Bonneville Power Authority; State and local
                                        agencies; power utilities; irrigation districts;
                                        Tribal nations; the Provincial Government of
                                        British Columbia, Alberta, the Yukon Territory;
                                        and Mexico.

                                                            This sediment basin prevents sediment from entering streams.
                                                                                                       MISSION GOALS       35

                                                                                                                                H E A LT H Y E N V I R O N M E N T
     Strategic Emphases                                                  • Work with the USDA Agricultural Research
     To accelerate existing efforts and stimulate new                       Service and Cooperative State Research,
     activities to improve, protect, and maintain                          Education, and Extension Service to identify
     water quality and quantity, NRCS will:                                water-efficient plants and technologies as
                                                                           a research priority. Make water-efficient
     1. Invest in improved technology and informa-                         conservation plantings a Plant Materials
     tion needed to support planning for watershed                         Center research and development priority.
     health. Specific tasks are to:
                                                                         2. Provide incentives, including market-based
     • Accelerate efforts to develop methods                              incentives, for:
       and models to credibly estimate effects of
       conservation measures on water quality and                        • Entities to develop, promote, and deliver
       quantity;                                                           innovative technologies to meet water quality
     • Develop field-scale technology to quantify                           and quantity objectives;
       the effects of conservation on water quality                       • Converting irrigated land to less water-
       and quantity to foster development of                               intensive uses, particularly in areas
       markets for private sector investment;                              experiencing water shortages, or converting
     • Integrate conservation benefits information                          frequently flooded areas to floodplains or
       into watershed-scale planning assistance to                         wetlands;
       help communities focus resources on priority                      • Maintenance and improvement of existing
       practices and geographic areas;                                     drainage systems to achieve water quality
     • Expand water supply forecasting nationwide                          and quantity objectives; and
       to assist individuals and communities that are                    • Adoption of water conserving crops or crop
       beginning to experience water quantity chal-                        varieties and production systems.
       lenges; and

In-field watering helps water quality by keeping cattle out of streams.
Foundation Goals:

Healthy   Plant and Animal   Communities
                                                                                    MISSION GOALS           37

                                                                                                                 H E A LT H Y E N V I R O N M E N T

                                               ealthy plant and animal communities
                                               provide economic and aesthetic benefits
                                               and are essential to people’s quality of life.
                                       Sustaining plant and animal communities cannot
                                       be achieved by focusing on individual species
                                       or isolated areas. Rather, the web of interacting
                                                  relationships between plant and animal
Outcome: Grassland, rangeland, and
forest ecosystems are productive, diverse,
                                                  species within a given ecosystem, and
and resilient.                                    their relationship to the physical features
                                                  and processes of their environment, must
Objective: By 2010, farmers, ranchers, and        be sustained to maintain the health and
private non-industrial forest landowners will     vigor of the system.
apply management that will maintain or
improve long-term vegetative condition on
150 million acres of grazing and forest land.

Baseline: In 1999, about 500 million acres of
non-Federal grazing land and non-industrial
forest were considered to be in minimal or
degrading vegetative condition.
                                                   Outcome: Working lands and waters provide habitat
                                                   for diverse and healthy wildlife, aquatic species, and
                                                   plant communities.

                                                   Objective: By 2010, an additional 9 million acres of
                                                   essential habitat will be improved and managed to
                                                   benefit at-risk and declining species.

                                                   Baseline: In 2005, NRCS helped farmers and ranchers
                                                   improved habitat for declining and at-risk species on
                                                   2 million acres.

                                        Outcome: Wetlands provide quality habitat for
                                        migratory birds and other wildlife, protect water
                                        quality, and reduce flood damages.

                                        Objective: By 2010, resource managers will create,
                                        restore or enhance 1.5 million acres of wetlands on
                                        non-Federal lands.

                                        Baseline: In 2003, there were 111 million wetland acres
                                        on non-Federal lands in the contiguous United States.
                   38      MISSION GOALS


                        Permanent Vegetation
                        Healthy, vigorous plant
                        communities on rangeland,
                        native and naturalized pasture,
                        and forest lands protect soil
                        quality, prevent soil erosion,
                        provide sustainable forage
                        and cover for livestock and
                        wildlife, provide fiber, improve
                        water quality, provide diverse
                        habitat for wildlife, and
                        sequester carbon. Non-Federal
                        lands in these ecosystems
                        make up almost one-half of
                        the area of the 48 contiguous
                        United States. Because the
                        acreage of range, native and        drought and invasive species.
                        naturalized pasture, and            Well-managed forests are less
                        forest ecosystems is so great,      susceptible to pests, disease,     Cooperative Actions
                        poor cover quality can have         and catastrophic fires.             Protect Rangelands
                        significant effects on the
                        Nation’s soil, water,               Invasive plants are a major        NRCS works coopera-
                        and wildlife.                       concern in native grasslands,      tively with private sector
                                                            rangelands, and forests. An        organizations, State
                        Active, science-based               “invasive species” is one that     and Federal agencies,
                        management of vegetation            has been introduced into an        and Tribes to protect
                        is essential to maintaining         ecosystem where it is not          rangelands. An example
                        healthy, diverse, and resilient     native. Invasive plants may        of these locally led,
                        ecosystems. Preventing              crowd out native plants, make      cooperative efforts is
                        degradation requires careful        areas more susceptible to cata-    the Malpai Borderlands
                        planning and management,            strophic fire, degrade habitat      Group, which is working
                        takes into consideration all        quality for native wildlife, and   to restore rangeland in
                        resource issues for a site,         may harm economic, envi-           southwest New Mexico
                        and is more cost effective           ronmental or human health.         and southeast Arizona.
                        than correcting a problem           For example, cheatgrass has        The Malpai Group was
                        after it has developed,             accelerated the fire cycle in       organized and led by area
                        especially in low rainfall areas.   western States by twenty-fold,     ranchers who saw that
                        Healthy and diverse plant           and saltcedar has diminished       the land, and their way
                        communities on rangeland            water supplies, altered soil       of life, were threatened
                        are better able to withstand        chemistry, and affected native
                                                            plants and wildlife.
                                                                                 MISSION GOALS          39

                                                                                                             H E A LT H Y E N V I R O N M E N T
by deteriorating rangeland
and by the spread of develop-
ment and subdivisions from
nearby towns.                    Fish and Wildlife Habitat          are second only to habitat
                                 Privately-owned and other          destruction as the cause of
The group originated as a        non-Federal lands provide          native species declines.
series of informal discussions   habitat for much of the
among ranching neighbors         Nation’s wildlife. When people     Protecting specific ecosystems
and was formally organized       use the land, they change the      and landscapes—including
as a non-profit organization      quantity and the quality of        wetlands, grasslands,
in 1994. Since then, the         the habitat the land provides      floodplains, and certain types
group has pursued activities     to wildlife and, therefore, the    of forests—can help support
to protect and restore           number and types of wildlife       wildlife and aquatic species
the ecological diversity         that can live there. The use and   and provide benefits in the
and productivity of the          condition of the land affects       form of recreation, hunting,
land, including rangeland        aquatic habitat as well.           and other forms of
restoration, reintroduction                                         agri-tourism. Improving the
of fire, wildlife conservation,   Fragmentation and loss of          habitat for declining and at-risk
and endangered species           habitat resulting from urban       species is key to preventing
recovery. The Malpai             and suburban development           further declines and ensuring
Borderlands Group pioneered      and from intensive agricultural    the continued survival of those
the GrassBank, which             uses have contributed to           species and the overall health
allows ranchers to rest their    declines in populations of         of the ecosystems of which
grasslands while sustaining      many terrestrial and aquatic       they are part.
their livestock. Grass on one    species. Invasive species
ranch is made available to
another rancher’s cattle in
return for conveying land-
use easements prohibiting
subdivision. The Malpai
Borderlands Group holds the

Key partners in the group
include Arizona and New
Mexico ranchers, Hidalgo and
Whitewater Draw Natural
Resource Conservation
Districts, NRCS, USDA
Forest Service, USDOI
Bureau of Land Management
and Fish and Wildlife
Service, Arizona State Land
Department, universities in
New Mexico and Arizona,
Arizona and New Mexico
Game and Fish Departments,
the Animas Foundation, and
The Nature Conservancy.
                   40       MISSION GOALS

                        Wetlands                                            In 1985, the Nation’s focus was   Key Tasks
                        Wetlands provide wildlife                           on “no net loss” of wetland
                        habitat, protect and improve                        acreage. National Resources       A long-standing priority for
                        water quality, attenuate water                      Inventory (NRI) data for 1997     NRCS, in partnership with
                        flows due to flooding, and                            and 2003 showed that the          many different entities, is
                        recharge ground water. Land                         “no net loss” goal had been       assisting individuals, commu-
                        use changes led to the drain-                       achieved, and there was no        nities, and Tribes to maintain,
                        age and alteration of almost                        longer an overall net loss of     restore, and enhance the
                        54 percent of wetlands, and in                      wetlands occurring within         productive capacity of grazing
                        some States, the loss is as high                    the contiguous United             lands and forestland. We also
                        as 90 percent since the                             States. In 2004, based in part    have decades of experience
                        beginning of the last century.                      on the accomplishments            in helping people maintain,
                        Increased knowledge about                           documented by the NRI and         restore, or enhance wetland
                        the importance of wetland                           a recognition of the benefits      ecosystems and fish and
                        functions influenced national                        wetlands give the Nation, the     wildlife habitat. In the period
                        policy and moved the Nation                         President set a national goal     covered by this strategic plan,
                        toward restoring wetlands.                          to restore, create, enhance,      our current conservation
                                                                            and protect 3 million acres of    efforts will be continued, as
                                                                            wetlands by 2010.                 will our partnerships with
                                                                                                              Federal and State agencies,
                                                                                                              Tribes, and local governments
                                                                                                              and organizations. Strategic
                                                                                                              emphases to implement
                        �       ���������������������������������������������������������������
                                                                                                              our three key strategies will
                                                                                                              accelerate progress toward
                                                                                                              our goals.
                                                                                                              Current Conservation
                                                                                                              NRCS helps people plan
                                                                                                              sustainable use and protection
                                                                                                              of grassland, rangeland, forest-
                                                                                                              land, and critical habitat. We
                           �������                                                                            provide technical assistance
                           �������                                                                            and tools for comprehensive
                                                                                                              conservation management
                                                                                                              systems to prevent problems
                                                                                                              and maintain good conditions.
                                            ���������                       ���������         ���������
                                                                                                              On grazing land, vegetative
                                  ����������                      ����������              ����������          degradation is addressed
                              ������������������������������������������������                                through replanting and
                                                                                    MISSION GOALS        41

                                                                                                              H E A LT H Y E N V I R O N M E N T
through management                 NRCS supports voluntary              We also make wetlands
practices, including               incentive-based approaches           determinations and conduct
eradicating or controlling         to wetland restoration.              compliance reviews to
invasive species, applying
sustainable stocking densities,
water management, and
proper nutrient management.
Assistance to non-industrial          Cooperative Action Enhances Wildlife Habitat
private forest landowners             in Bottomland Hardwoods
and managers includes tree
and shrub establishment and
                                      Between the 1960s and             Project is targeting easement
forest stand improvement.
                                      1980s, thousands of acres         acquisition and restoration
                                      of lower Mississippi River        on 56,250 acres in the
We help farmers, ranchers,
                                      Valley bottomland hardwoods       State. Future goals include
non-industrial private forest
                                      were converted to row-crop        a wooded wetland corridor
landowners, and other natural
                                      agriculture, resulting in         from northeast Louisiana
resource managers with
                                      loss of habitat essential for     to the Gulf of Mexico. The
wildlife considerations when
                                      migratory birds including         project will also provide
they plan the use of their land.
                                      waterfowl and neotropical         uninterrupted habitat for
These land stewards consider
                                      songbirds. Fragmentation          neotropical songbirds and
wildlife needs for shelter;
                                      of the landscape also dam-        waterfowl during spring
access to water; and food in
                                      aged habitat for local black      and fall migrations between
proper amounts, locations,
                                      bears, preventing genetic         South America and Canada.
and times to sustain wildlife
                                      interchange among individual
populations that inhabit the
                                      black bear populations. In        Key cooperators include
area during a portion of their
                                      the 1990s, NRCS, through          cooperating landowners,
life cycle. Management may
                                      its Wetlands Reserve Program      Louisiana soil and water
include controlling invasive
                                      (WRP), became an important        conservation districts, Ducks
species, adopting practices to
                                      partner in efforts and initia-     Unlimited, Black Bear
improve grassland or forest
                                      tives to restore the critical     Conservation Committee,
habitat, or managing water
                                      wetlands and woodlands of         USDOI Fish and Wildlife
levels in wetlands to control
                                      the Mississippi Delta. The        Service, The Nature
vegetation. Actions to sustain
                                      Black Bear Corridor Special       Conservancy, U.S.
and enhance aquatic habitat
                                      Project, an initiative designed   Geological Survey National
include applying conservation
                                      to create a contiguous            Wetlands Research Center,
practices that filter potential
                                      wooded and wetland corridor       National Wild Turkey
pollutants and moderate
                                      between two black bear            Federation, USDA Farm
stream temperatures.
                                      populations in Louisiana,         Service Agency, and many
Our priority for action is
                                      is one of many projects in        other local, State and Federal
helping to maintain or
                                      which NRCS cooperates. The        agencies, committees, societ-
enhance habitat for at-risk
                                      Black Bear Corridor Special       ies, refuges, and land trusts.
species so that populations
remain stable or increase.
                   42      MISSION GOALS

                        ensure that USDA program          • Cooperate with Tribes, State     • Cooperating with stake-
                        participants are meeting            and local governments,             holders in the public and
                        their responsibility to protect     Federal agencies, and              private sectors to develop
                        wetlands.                           private sector organizations       watershed and area-wide
                                                            to develop and adopt a set         plans that are designed
                        Efforts to ensure that diverse       of standard, science-based         to restore, protect, and
                        and healthy ecosystems are          resource indicators that           manage wetlands.
                        sustained involve partnerships      could be used to assess the
                        across ownership and political      condition of selected fish        4. Enhance the performance
                        boundaries. Many entities           and wildlife resources;          of programs we administer to
                        with different roles cooperate                                        protect wetlands and other
                        in these efforts. As part of       2. Develop enhanced technol-       wildlife habitat by:
                        the assistance we provide on      ogy, including expanding
                                                          plant trials to develop plants     • Actively managing
                        private lands, NRCS works to
                        improve coordination among        that have a natural resistance       conservation easement
                        these many stakeholders.          to pests.                            lands under the Agency’s
                                                                                               administrative control
                                                          3. Enhance effectiveness of           to maximize benefits to
                        Strategic Emphases
                                                          efforts to protect ecosystems by:     wildlife and wildlife habitat;
                        To increase the effectiveness
                        of our ongoing efforts to help
                                                          • Expanding partnerships           • Developing wildlife
                        people protect and enhance                                             management plans for all
                                                            with State and local
                        plant and animal communities                                           wetland acres enrolled in
                                                            governments, Federal
                        on private lands, NRCS will:                                           NRCS programs; and
                                                            agencies, Tribes, and private
                                                            sector organizations to          • Focusing funding
                        1. Enhance the ability
                                                            develop collaborative              resources in areas with
                        to measure conditions               strategies to address grazing      the greatest potential to
                        and project the results of          land health, including             restore wetlands on the
                        management options. Specific         efforts to control invasive         agricultural landscape, that
                        actions include:                    species.                           is, on areas where there
                        • Accelerate development of       • Facilitating the adoption          are opportunities and
                          methodology to measure and        of landscape-scale habitat         infrastructure in place for
                          monitor grazing land health;      protection plans that provide      restoration.
                        • Enhance technology                at-risk and declining species
                          to measure effects of              access to water, food, and
                          conservation practices on         shelter, as well as corridors
                          agricultural lands, wetlands,     for seasonal migration.
                          and wildlife resources; and       Provide funds to help
                                                            develop and implement such
                                                            area-wide plans.
NRCS works cooperatively with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the
Caddo Tribe’s Environmental Officer on Oklahoma’s Wichita Wildlife Refuge.

                                  NRCS provides assistance for a prescribed
                                      burn on the Wichita Wildlife Refuge.
Venture Goals

Venture Goals describe areas in which we anticipate the need for
greatly expanded activity in the future. Those areas are:

• Clean Air;
• An Adequate Energy Supply; and
• Working Farm and Ranch Lands

The impacts of agriculture on air quality are small-scale and local
in nature, but may be significant in certain locales. In those areas,
public pressure on producers to take action is increasing.
Agriculture makes a small contribution to greenhouse gas emissions,
but has the potential to offset emissions caused by other sectors.

The high cost of energy, the need to reduce emissions associated
with fossil fuels, and the income opportunities for farmers and
ranchers with an increasing renewable energy economy are focusing
attention on energy conservation, the production of renewable
fuels, and development of alternative energy sources.

Challenges to natural resources and agriculture resulting from
development in what had been largely agricultural watersheds have
been identified as a major concern by our customers. The conversion
rate of cropland, grazing land, and forest land to developed uses
is accelerating as a result of low-density development, increasing
household formation, and larger lot sizes.

NRCS has had a relatively minor role in addressing these issues in
the past, and we are not yet ready to set Agency-level performance
measures for these issues. But the need for information and
analytical tools to evaluate strategies to address the issues is
growing. We are cooperating with many agencies and private sector
entities to develop good data on conditions and measurement
techniques, and anticipate that activities directed to these issues will
increase significantly over the next few years.
Venture Goals:   Clean   AIR
                                       MISSION GOALS   47

                                                            H E A LT H Y E N V I R O N M E N T

      he quality of the air affects
      every component of the
      natural system: soil, water,
plants, animals, and people.
Because of atmospheric mixing,
air emissions and their impacts
may be in close proximity or
thousands of miles apart.

Outcome: Agriculture makes a positive
contribution to local air quality and the
  Nation’s efforts to sequester carbon.

            Objective: To be established.
              The objective will be
                 measured by tons of
                   carbon sequestered.

                       Baseline: To be
                         NRCS is currently
                         several methods
                          on how to best
                          evaluate carbon
                   48      MISSION GOALS

                        Situation                         local jurisdictions are requiring                        management reduce nitrous
                                                          agriculture to mitigate or                               oxide emissions from
                        Agriculture and forestry are a    control emissions.                                       agricultural activities.
                        small, but sometimes locally                                                               Agriculture and forestry
                        important, source of emis-        Greenhouse Gases                                         also are the Nation’s carbon
                        sions. They also can do much      Agriculture accounts for                                 sinks, storing carbon in
                        to benefit the air by mitigating   about 8 percent of U.S.                                  forests, woodlots and urban
                        emissions from other sources      greenhouse gas (GHG)                                     trees, agricultural soils, and
                        and by sequestering carbon.       emissions, with most traced                              grasslands. Although carbon
                                                          to nitrous oxide (N2O) and                               stocks in agricultural soils have
                        Air Quality                       methane (CH4) emissions                                  increased since 2000, overall
                        Agricultural emissions that       from soils management and                                sequestration has declined
                        can affect air quality may be      rice and livestock production.                           since the mid-1990s. Experts
                        associated with wind erosion,     Although a small source,                                 project substantial opportunity
                        prescribed burns, animal          agriculture is working to                                for long-term soil carbon gains.
                        confinement, and chemical drift.   minimize emissions. Gains in                             Carbon credit markets may
                                                          fertilizer and fuel efficiency                             offer a new economic incentive
                        Over 120 counties nationwide      and improved nutrient                                    for increasing soil carbon.
                        are designated as non-
                        attainment areas for one or
                        more criteria air pollutants—
                        meaning they have air
                        pollutant concentrations that     Map 4. Counties Designated “Non-attainment” for Clean Air Act’s National Ambient
                        exceed the national standard             Air Quality Standards (NAAQS).
                        established under the Clean
                        Air Act. Where agriculture is
                        identified as a source of air
                        pollutants in non-attainment
                        areas, State Implementation
                        Plans may require agriculture
                        to reduce emissions.

                        Odors from animal waste,
                        volatile organic compounds,
                        and sulfur and nitrogen               Hawaii
                                                              (No Data)
                        emissions are not regulated          Pacific
                        nationally. As development           Basin Northern
                                                                     Marianas                                       Species at Risk
                        presses into rural areas,                  Guam                                                 4 NAAQS Pollutants
                                                            American Samoa                                                                   Puerto Rico/U.S. Virgin Islands
                        however, public concern                                                                         3 NAAQS Pollutants
                                                                                                                                             (No Data)
                                                                                                                        2 NAAQS Pollutants
                        about odors and emissions                                            Alaska
                                                                                                                        1 NAAQS Pollutants
                        from agricultural operations
                        is increasing and State and           Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 2005
                                                                                                          MISSION GOALS      49

                                                                                                                                  H E A LT H Y E N V I R O N M E N T
Key Tasks                        management history. Results                        Strategic Emphases
                                 can be used to help producers                      To enhance assistance to
As air quality and atmospheric   and landowners make                                producers in addressing air
change concerns increase,        decisions about participating                      quality issues and seizing new
we anticipate an expanded        in carbon credit markets.                          carbon market opportunities,
conservation focus on these                                                         NRCS will:
issues. In the period covered    NRCS is revising, modifying,
by this strategic plan, our      and adapting conservation                          1. Increase understanding of
current conservation efforts      standards and specifications                        air quality and greenhouse gas
will be continued, as will our   to better address air issues.                      emissions issues by:
partnerships with Federal        For example, a new technical
and State agencies, Tribes,      standard for air management                        • Developing and
and local governments and        provides technical                                   implementing a training
organizations. Strategic         guidance for implementing                            program to increase
emphases will accelerate         conservation options to                              employee understanding
progress toward our goals.       minimize emissions.                                  of air quality issues and
                                                                                      the effects of conservation
Current Conservation                                                                  practices on air quality; and
NRCS currently incorporates
air quality considerations         ��������������������������������������������������������������������
into conservation planning           ����������
with producers. Conservation            ���

measures adopted include                ���
windbreaks and buffers,
integrated pest management,
prescribed burning, and                   �
comprehensive nutrient
management to minimize
emissions and their transport.         ����

Many of the practices that
conserve soil, water, or air
quality also store carbon.            �����
NRCS and Colorado State               �����
University developed a carbon                     ����      ����        ����        ����         ����          ����   ����

management tool (COMET-VR)              ���������                              �������������
that enables landowners to                 ����������������������                 �������
                                           ��������������������������               �������������������
estimate carbon sequestered
                                           ��������������������������               �����������������
based on agricultural                      ��������������������������               ������������������������
                   50      MISSION GOALS

                        • Initiating an informational       producers and help them
                          program to increase               mitigate for changing
                          landowner and community           environmental conditions.
                          awareness of air quality
                                                          3. Accelerate adoption of
                          issues and opportunities
                                                          practices to address air quality
                          for improvement, and
                                                          and GHG emissions by:
                          facilitating discussion
                          between agricultural and        • Working with Tribes and
                          non-agricultural community        State and local entities to
                          segments.                         develop regional plans
                                                            to address agricultural
                        2. Acquire and develop
                                                            contributions to air quality
                        needed resource data and
                        technology. Specific actions
                        include:                          • Ensuring that air quality
                                                            and GHG emissions are
                        • Identifying locations,
                                                            emphasized in conservation
                          extent, and trends of air
                          quality problems related to
                          agriculture;                    • Providing incentives for
                                                            the demonstration of new
                        • Partnering with private and
                                                            technologies that benefit air
                          public sector organizations
                                                            quality; and
                          to develop new technology
                          and practices to mitigate air   • Encouraging development
                          quality problems related to       of markets for emissions
                          agriculture;                      reductions and environmen-
                                                            tal credit trading to benefit
                        • Implementing tests of the
                                                            air resources and agriculture
                          Wind Erosion Prediction
                          System (WEPS) to assist with
                          wind-generated particulate        • Collaborating in research
                                                              to quantify carbon
                          matter estimates;                   sequestration and emis-
                        • Expanding plant materials           sion reduction benefits
                          research to develop plant           of conservation practices;
                          varieties that maximize
                          carbon sequestration; and         • Facilitating voluntary
                                                              reporting of GHG emission
                        • Monitoring changes in               reduction and carbon
                          climate through SNOwpack            sequestration.
                          TELemetry (SNOTEL) and
                          Soil Climate Analysis
                          Network (SCAN) to inform
Cooperative Action for
Air Quality

The NRCS chairs the
Agricultural Air Quality
Task Force, established
in 1996. The Task
Force—made up of
national leaders from
farming, industry, health,
and science—provides
advice to the Secretary
of Agriculture on
agricultural air quality
issues, data quality, and
interagency air quality
research efforts.               Field windbreaks protect against wind erosion.

The Task Force has
examined the role of
agriculture in greenhouse
gas emissions and climate
change; volatile organic
compounds, small
particulates, and odors
associated with livestock
waste; and odor and
visibility issues associated
with livestock production.
Task Force committees
recently identified a
number of atmospheric
research issues and
priorities, ranging from
better understanding of
agriculture’s emissions and
modeling of atmospheric
processes to quantifying
mitigation benefits and
developing market-based
Venture Goals:

An Adequate   Energy Supply
                                                                  MISSION GOALS   53

                                                                                       H E A LT H Y E N V I R O N M E N T

                         As a result of increasing demand,
                         the reliability, affordability, and
                         sustainability of energy supplies will
                         be continuing concerns in the years
                         ahead. Agriculture’s long-term energy
                         strategy will include efforts to reduce
                         demand through energy conservation
                         and to develop alternative or renewable
                                       energy supplies and
Outcome: Agricultural                  technologies. On-farm
activities conserve energy and         energy conservation
agricultural lands are a source        and development also
of environmentally sustainable         can reduce producers’
biofuels and renewable energy.
                                       operating costs. Agriculture
Objective: To be established.
                                       has significant potential to
The objective will be measured by      contribute to the Nation’s
BTUs conserved.                        energy supply through
                                       production of energy from
Baseline: To be determined.            renewable sources and
NRCS is currently evaluating several biofuels. Development of
methods on how to best evaluate        conservation systems for
fuel savings.                          the sustainable production
                                       of energy crops is a priority.
                   54        MISSION GOALS

                        Situation                                                    type of farming enterprise,       irrigation systems, such as
                                                                                     energy related expenses can       micro-irrigation and low-pres-
                        The Nation’s energy                                          range from 10 to 30 percent of    sure spray sprinkler systems,
                        consumption is expected to                                   operating costs for producing     can reduce energy needs.
                        increase by 30 percent over                                  major crops. In addition to
                        the next 20 years. Improving                                 reducing operating costs,         Renewable Energy
                        energy management on farms                                   energy conservation can           and Biofuels
                        and ranches could improve                                    reduce air pollutants and         Currently, about 6 percent of
                        the environment, lower farm                                  greenhouse gas emissions.         the total energy consumption
                        and ranch production costs,                                                                    in the United States comes
                        and decrease consumption of                                  Farmers and ranchers have         from renewable resources. The
                        fossil fuels. Improving energy                               opportunities to conserve         increasing demand for energy
                        management includes energy                                   energy through many on-farm       will encourage further devel-
                        conservation and energy                                      activities. For example, com-     opment of renewable energy
                        production.                                                  pleting scheduled equipment       sources. Environmentally
                                                                                     maintenance ensures systems       sound production of renew-
                        Energy Conservation                                          work at optimal levels; using     able energy and biomass may
                        Energy-related costs are a                                   legumes in crop rotations         provide a significant economic
                        significant farm operating                                    reduces energy needs by           opportunity for agriculture.
                        expense. Depending on the                                    eliminating applications
                        region of the country and                                    of fertilizer and other farm      Solar, wind, biogas (methane
                                                                                     chemicals; and using efficient      generation), and, in some
                                                                                                                       instances, geothermal or
                                                                                                                       hydropower energy, can be
                                                                                                                       generated and used on or off
                                                                                                                       the farm. Wind, the source of
                        Figure 6. Energy Use in Agriculture by Source, 1965 – 2004.                                    only a very small part of the
                         Quadrillion btu
                                                                                                                       renewable energy used, is
                                                                                                                       the fastest growing form of
                                  1.6                                                                                  renewable energy generation.
                                  1.4                                                                                  Biomass—energy crops and
                                                                                                                       trees and animal wastes—
                                                                                                                       accounts for about one-half of
                                                                                                                       the current renewable energy
                                                                                                                       consumed and has significant
                                  0.6                                                                                  potential for expansion. Corn
                                  0.4                                                                                  is currently the most widely
                                                                                                                       used biomass energy crop.
                                                                                                                       Native prairie grasses and
                                        1965          1970   1975        1980         1985   1990        1995   2000
                                                                                                                       fast-growing trees like poplar
                                                                                                                       and willow are likely to surpass
                                        Electricity                   LP Gas                        Gasoline
                                        Natural Gas                   Diesel
                                                                                                                       corn because they are cheaper
                                 Source: USDA, Office of the Chief Economist, 2004
                                                                                                                       to produce.
                                                                                                             MISSION GOALS          55

                                                                                                                                         H E A LT H Y E N V I R O N M E N T
Key Tasks                                          products, providing grants and              NRCS encourages producers
                                                   loans for renewable energy,                 to conduct an energy audit as
As concerns increase about                         and funding research and                    the first step toward successful
energy costs and air quality,                      development on bioenergy.                   energy management. A
we expect the need for                                                                         whole-farm energy audit
conservation technical                             Many of the conservation                    assesses the energy use of
assistance to increase. While we                   practices that NRCS helps                   an operation and identifies
are not yet ready to set Agency                    producers adopt reduce                      cost-effective changes that
targets for energy, we are                         on-farm energy needs. Such                  could be adopted.
increasing cooperative efforts                      practices include conservation
with many agencies and private                     tillage, precision farming,
sector entities to develop                         and fuel-efficient irrigation
information and technology to                      methods. In addition, NRCS
address energy issues.                             provides technical and
                                                   financial assistance to help                  Cooperative Action to Advance
Current Conservation                               farmers and ranchers reduce                  Biomass Development
Management                                         their dependence on fossil
Increasing concerns about                          fuels by developing solar                    NRCS Plant Materials Centers
the affordability and reliability                   or wind energy to generate                   evaluate plant materials for
of the energy supply led to                        electricity or methane                       biomass production. Proven
the inclusion of an Energy                         digesters. We are also                       species are released to the private
Title in the 2002 Farm Bill.                       providing grants to multi-farm,              sector for commercial production.
The legislation promotes the                       biomass utilization production
development of bio-based                           facilities and community-wide                The Mississippi Plant Materials
fuel products by encouraging                       biomass projects.                            Center, working with the U.S.
Federal procurement of the                                                                      Department of Energy’s Biomass
                                                                                                Power and Biofuel Feedstock
                                                                                                Development Program, evaluated
                                                                                                biomass crops and management
                                                                                                techniques for plants that thrive
                                                                                                in the Southeast. Switchgrass
                    �������������                          �����������                          was determined to be the most
                   ����������������                      ����������������
                                      ����������������                                          productive with one cutting.
   ������������                           �����
      ���                                  ��                                 ������������
                                                                              �������������     Information and technologies
                                                                                 ����           related to the use of renewable
                                        ����������                                              energy will be widely shared
                                                                                                through the Biobased Products
                                                                               ����             and Bioenergy Coordination
                                                                                                Council. Recent expanded
                                                                              ������������      partnerships with the Department
                                                                                                of Energy and Department of
                                                                                                Interior will allow us to coordinate
                                                                                                and share information on biomass
                                                                                                research and climate change.
                   56        MISSION GOALS

                        Strategic Emphases                                                 Tribal, Alaskan Native,               • Increase testing of plants
                        To encourage farmers to                                            State agencies, and non-                that show promise for
                        maximize fuel efficiency and                                         governmental organizations              biofuel production; and
                        produce environmentally                                            to develop a comprehensive
                                                                                                                                 • Explore the integration
                        sustainable renewable energy                                       energy audit standard;
                                                                                                                                   of energy management
                        sources, NRCS will integrate                                   • Develop technical tools and               strategies with ongoing
                        energy-related resource                                          provide training to staff and              NRCS environmental
                        concerns into our planning                                       private sector providers to               outcomes projects.
                        and technical consultation                                       enhance agriculture’s ability
                        assistance, technology                                           to evaluate and reduce
                        development, and financial                                                                                We will integrate energy
                                                                                         energy consumption;
                        assistance programs.                                                                                     concerns into our planning
                                                                                       • Partner with the private                assistance and programs,
                        We will cooperate in the                                         sector to encourage                     providing information to:
                        development of information                                       development of energy-
                        and technology to promote                                        efficient farm equipment;                 • Encourage producers to
                        energy management. Actions                                                                                 use plants better suited
                                                                                       • Design and develop tools
                        include:                                                                                                   to local soil and climate
                                                                                         for farmers and ranchers
                                                                                                                                   conditions to reduce energy
                                                                                         to assess their direct and
                        • Work collaboratively                                                                                     inputs; and
                                                                                         indirect energy use;
                          with appropriate Federal,                                                                              • Encourage livestock
                                                                                                                                   producers to adopt forage-
                                                                                                                                   based systems to extend
                                                                                                                                   and maximize the grazing
                        Map 5. Land Capable of Producing Energy Crops Without Irrigation (Million Acres).                          season.
                                  Pacific Coast
                                       2.7            Rocky Mountains
                                                                                                                                 We will encourage increased
                                                                                       North Central
                                                                                          222.7                                  use of biofuels by:
                                                                                                                                 • Encouraging on-farm
                                                                                                                                 • Providing incentives for
                                                                                                                                   expanding on-farm energy
                                                                                                                                   conservation and renewable
                                                                                                                                   energy production and use;
                                                                                                                       33.9      • Developing and executing
                                                                                                                                   an energy management
                                    Total = 392 million acres                                                                      communication campaign;
                                                                                       South Central
                                                                                           87.6                                    and
                           Source: U.S. Department of Energy, Oak Ridge Laboratory, 1999                                         • Increasing biofuel use by
                                                                                                                                   the NRCS fleet.
                   MISSION GOALS         57

                                              H E A LT H Y E N V I R O N M E N T

Manure management for methane recovery
is an on-farm source of biogas fuel.
Venture Goals:

Working   Farm Ranch Lands
                   60   MISSION GOALS

                                        Urban sprawl.
                                                                                                MISSION GOALS    61

                                                                                                                      H E A LT H Y E N V I R O N M E N T

                                                             Conversion of cropland, grazing land, and forest
                                                             land to other uses can fragment landscapes and
                                                             diminish their values for agriculture and forest
                                                             uses, water management, wildlife habitat, and
                                                             aesthetic purposes. The rate of development
                                                             accelerated from 1.4 million acres per year
Grasslands and subdivisions form distinct contrasts on the   between 1982 and 1992 to 2.2 million acres per
Colorado Front Range, Larimer County, Colorado.              year between 1992 and 2001.

                                                              As predominantly agricultural watersheds shift
                                                              toward mixed urban and suburban landscapes,
                                                              land values escalate and agricultural viability
                                                              declines. Communities can use comprehensive
                                                                       watershed planning to retain a viable
                                  Outcome: Connected landscapes        agricultural presence, rural quality of
                                  sustain a viable agricultural sector life, and quality of the environment,
                                  and natural resource quality.        while making room for needed
                                                                       development and other economic uses
                                  Objective: By 2010, 70 percent of    of the resource base.
                                  farms and ranches protected under
                                  easements will remain in active

                                  Baseline: To be determined. A study
                                  is currently being conducted by the
                                  University of Nebraska to ascertain
                                  how many farms and ranches
                                  enrolled in the Farm and Ranch
                                  Lands Protection Program remain
                                  in active agriculture.
                   62      MISSION GOALS

                        Situation                           by 2010. Such small parcels        of land conversion in the
                                                            are less likely to be managed      West is divisions of large
                        Urban areas are continuing          for wood or fiber production        parcels into relatively small
                        to grow into the countryside,       or to provide the multiple         “ranchettes” rather than into
                        and more isolated large-lot         benefits associated with forest     concentrated development.
                        housing development is              systems. Unmanaged forests         Although the land is still in
                        occurring beyond the urban          can become overstocked,            an agriculturally use, these
                        fringe. Between 1960 and            increasing their susceptibility    small units are generally not
                        1990, metropolitan-area             to pests, disease, and fires.       managed as working ranches.
                        population grew by 50               Epidemics of bark beetles in       The corresponding absence of
                        percent while the acreage of        the South and West and the         adequate range management
                        developed land increased 100        increase in frequency and          allows invasive species to
                        percent. An estimated one-          intensity of major wildfires in     become well-established and
                        fifth of the Nation’s 250 million    recent years are associated        to threaten the health of wide
                        acres of prime agricultural         with overstocked forests.          areas of the landscape. Such
                        land is considered at risk for                                         development may also hinder
                        development because of its          Cropland                           the ability of wildlife to move
                        proximity to the Nation’s 100       Cropland that is converted to      freely within their habitat.
                        largest cities. The National        developed uses is dominantly
                        Home Builders Association           prime farmland—the land            Agricultural Viability
                        forecasts that 1.3 to 1.5 million   that is best suited to growing     Urban sprawl and
                        new homes will be built             crops. The conversion of prime     fragmentation of the
                        each year through 2010. If          farmland results in the loss of    landscape also affect the
                        current development patterns        productive soil resources as       viability of agricultural
                        continue, these will be larger      well as reduced production         operations. Conflicts often
                        homes, on larger lots, farther      of some high-value or              develop between agricultural
                        from central cities. Land in        specialty crops. In California’s   operators and new residents
                        all agricultural uses is being      Central Valley, 15,000 acres       that make production more
                        affected by development              of farmland are developed          difficult or more expensive.
                        pressure.                           each year. The Central Valley      Increasing land prices, taxes,
                                                            currently produces 10 percent      and regulations may cause
                        Forest Land                         of the Nation’s farm output on     operators to sell their land
                        Private forest land is the major    less than one percent of the       for development and leave
                        source of newly developed           Nation’s farmland.                 farming or move to a less
                        acres. If fragmentation, the                                           developed area to begin
                        dividing of land into smaller       Grazing Lands                      again. As the concentration
                        ownerships, continues at the        Fragmentation of rangeland         of agriculture operations
                        current rate of change, 38          is an increasing concern           declines, the viability of
                        percent of forest land will be in   in many areas of the West.         remaining operations is
                        parcels of less than 100 acres      Unlike the East, the pattern       further challenged.
                                                                                                MISSION GOALS       63

                                                                                                                         H E A LT H Y E N V I R O N M E N T
Key Tasks                                       and other entities that are       • Accurate and up-to-date
                                                responsible for comprehensive       soils data and other natu-
Working in partnership with                     land use planning so they can       ral resource data that can
many different entities, NRCS                    balance development and             be used by local planning
has helped communities to                       other land uses to achieve an       bodies to ensure natural
make wise land management                       appropriate mix that supports       resources are protected.
decisions for decades. Our                      environmental quality,
current conservation efforts                     economic opportunity, and
                                                                                  We also partner with State and
will be strengthened by                         social desires. The tools we
                                                                                  local governments, Tribes, and
strategic emphases to assist                    provide include:
                                                                                  non-governmental entities
communities in developing                                                         to purchase development
and implementing land man-                      • Planning tools, such as land-
                                                                                  rights, helping communities
agement strategies that meet                      scape suitability modeling
                                                                                  preserve priority farm and
their objectives and sustain or                   and science-based resource
                                                                                  forest land in long-term
improve environmental quality.                    data, that enable local com-
                                                                                  and permanent easements.
                                                  munities to plan for develop-
                                                                                  State Technical Committees,
Current Conservation                              ment, identify agriculturally
                                                                                  local USDA workgroups, and
Management                                        and ecologically significant
                                                                                  Resource Conservation and
NRCS provides information                         areas, zone for agriculture,
                                                                                  Development Councils assist
and analytical tools to                           and identify land most suited
                                                                                  in coordinating local, State,
governments, communities,                         for development; and
                                                                                  regional, and Tribal efforts to
                                                                                  protect farm, ranch, and forest
                                                                                  lands from fragmentation.

                                                                                  We help operators keep farms
Figure 8. Sources of Newly Developed Land, Annual Acres by Time Period.           viable through stewardship
                                                                                  incentive payments and by
Thousand Acres
    15000                                                                         providing information about
                                                                                  alternative or value-added
                                                                                  enterprises, such as niche
                                                                                  crops or agri-tourism, that may
                                                                                  improve farm economics. We
                                                                                  also provide cost-share for
                                                                                  tree establishment, forest site
                                                                                  preparation, and timber stand
                                                                                  improvement to help land-
                                                                                  owners sustainably manage
                                                                                  their forested acreage.
                   1982 to 1992            1992 to 1997         1997 to 2001

            Cropland                      Forest Land
            Grazing Land                  All Other Land Uses

      Source: NRCS, National Resources Inventory, 2001
                   64   MISSION GOALS

                                                                                Information Enables
                                                                                Cooperative Action

                                                                                In cooperation with the
                                                                                National Agricultural Library
                                                                                and American Farmland
                                Strategic Emphases                              Trust, NRCS provides funding
                                To accelerate progress toward watersheds        to support the Farmland
                                with well-balanced land uses that meet          Information Center (FIC).
                                communities’ natural resource, economic,        FIC is a clearinghouse for
                                and social objectives, NRCS will:               information about farmland
                                                                                protection and stewardship.
                                • Increase our investment in developing         It provides an online collection
                                  resource information and area-wide            of laws, literature, and techni-
                                  planning tools that can assist local          cal resources to assist agencies,
                                  communities as they comprehensively           academics, non-governmental
                                  plan for growth and zone for agricultural     organizations, and concerned
                                  protection;                                   citizens in making informed
                                • Encourage development of information          land use decisions and policies.
                                  resources for local governments,
                                  communities, natural resource managers,
                                  and operators on estate planning and
                                  facilitating land transfer to agricultural
                                  buyers. The information will encourage
                                  retention of important lands in agriculture
                                  and forest uses;
                                • Encourage development of a national
                                  information warehouse to make
                                  geographic data available on existing
                                  easements, across participating
                                  government and non-governmental
                                  entities, in order to enable protection
                                  of contiguous blocks of agricultural and
                                  forest lands;
                                • Expand technical and educational tools to
                                  help alternative agricultural enterprises,
                                  such as agri-tourism and niche markets,
                                  maintain economic viability; and
                                • Actively manage conservation easements
                                  under the Agency’s administrative control
                                  in order to maintain agricultural viability
                                  and natural resource protection.
                                               MISSION GOALS   65

                                                                    H E A LT H Y E N V I R O N M E N T
Contour stripcropping prevents soil erosion.
Management Initiatives
                   68      MANAGEMENT INITIATIVES

                                                            Management Initiatives:

                        Ensuring Civil Rights

                                RCS employees ensure        recognizing that individuals      Performance Expectation:
                                that every customer         are different and that diversity   The Agency workforce will
                                and every colleague is      is an advantage if nurtured       closely resemble the diversity
                        treated with fairness, equity,      and well managed, and it          of the Nation’s labor force.
                        and respect. We strive for a        means changing behavior
                        workplace and society that          and systems to nurture the        Fair and Equitable
                        are inclusive and respectful of     richness of differences.           Service Delivery
                        differences.                         In order to achieve a diverse
                                                            workforce, NRCS will:             NRCS is committed to
                        Management Goal:                                                      providing equitable service
                        Establish an equal opportu-         • Create—through                  to all customers, regardless
                        nity standard for excellence          awareness training,             of race, color, national origin,
                        through a highly skilled              career developmental            gender, religion, age, disability,
                        workforce that is diverse at all      opportunities, and              sexual orientation, marital or
                        levels and ensures a commit-          managerial commitment—          family status, political beliefs,
                        ment of equal access to NRCS          the workplace environment       parental status, or protected
                        programs and services.                that makes NRCS the             genetic information.
                                                              employer of choice for the
                        Equal Employment                      best-qualified individuals of    To ensure fair and equitable
                        Opportunity                           all backgrounds;                program delivery, NRCS will:
                                                            • Create a working
                        It is the policy of NRCS to           environment that is free of     • Conduct a continuous
                        achieve a culturally diverse          discrimination and sexual         review of all Agency
                        workforce that provides               harassment and that is            activities, including program
                        services to a varied and chang-       accessible to individuals         requirements, to ensure
                        ing population. A diverse             with disabilities; and            that technical assistance
                        workforce is one that reflects                                           and financial assistance are
                        Department of Labor statistics      • Recognize, appreciate, and        provided equitably;
                        on the makeup of the Nation’s         value diversity, thereby
                                                              demonstrating trust,            • Recognize the multilingual
                        labor force and that values
                                                              respect, and concern for the      and multicultural needs of
                        differences such as cultural
                                                              welfare of all people within      our customers;
                        background, race, color, age,
                        sex, national origin, disability,     the Agency.                     • Ensure that Agency
                        religion, or marital status at                                          information, tools, and
                        all levels of the organization.                                         technologies are in formats
                        Valuing diversity means                                                 that can be used effectively
                                                                         MANAGEMENT INITIATIVES    69

                                                                                                        H E A LT H Y E N V I R O N M E N T
  by minority, underserved,
  and nontraditional groups;
                                   Improving Internal Management
• Produce communications
  materials, such as

  multilingual publications,                ood management           • Make effective use of
  specifically targeted to                   of internal business       electronic information
  reach underserved groups;                 processes and Agency       management systems to
                                   resources is essential to           enable:
• Strengthen ties with
  academic institutions            efficient program operations
                                   that provide high-quality          • Employees to provide
  and community-based                                                   better service to
  organizations that serve         customer service and make
                                   effective use of the public           customers;
  minorities to develop
  and deliver services             investment. NRCS is commit-
                                                                      • Customers to easily
  to meet the needs of             ted to fully implementing the        access our information
  minority, underserved, and       management strategies that           and use our planning
  nontraditional customers;        the President’s Management           tools to improve their
                                   Agenda has identified as key          management of soil and
• Cooperate with Tribal            to improving the effectiveness        water resources; and
  governments to implement         and accountability of the
  strategies for delivering        Federal government as a            • Customers and
                                                                        stakeholders to
  assistance that meets their      whole. We have developed             understand Agency
  needs;                           detailed long-range action           processes and the
• Develop innovative               plans to meet the criteria for       rationale for Agency
                                   excellence for each compo-           decisions.
  strategies using existing
  authorities to reach             nent of the President’s agenda.
                                   Major tasks in these plans        • Improve financial
  historically underserved
                                   are included in the Agency’s        management and avoid
  landowners and land
                                   annual business plan and in         improper payments;
  managers, and seek new
  authorities to broaden and       annual operating plans at         • Link budget decisions
  strengthen the conservation      all levels. Implementation of       more closely with program
  partnership; and                 these tasks will enable us to:      performance to achieve
                                                                       greater conservation.
• Conduct active outreach          • Maintain an efficient,
  programs to inform all             high-performing, diverse
  underserved groups of the          workforce, aligned with
  availability of services.          mission priorities and
                                     working cooperatively with
Performance Expectation:             our partners and the private
Every NRCS office that                 sector;
provides services to customers
will strive to provide parity in
service delivery.
                   70      MANAGEMENT INITIATIVES

                        Human Capital

                                 RCS employees work      in the range of needed            • Establishing annual
                                 with the employees      disciplines may be difficult in       multi-level assessments to
                                                         the next few years because          determine training needs
                                 of Federal, State,                                          at all levels of the Agency;
                        local, and Tribal agencies       a significant percentage of
                        and organizations, as well       the NRCS workforce will be        • Reduce the time it takes to
                        as volunteers, non-profit         eligible to retire in 5 years.      hire new employees;
                        organizations, and private       Sustaining a workforce that
                        sector technical service         can achieve our mission will      • Use targeted recruitment
                        providers to deliver and carry   require continuous, aggressive      strategies and specialized
                        out the Nation’s conservation    attention to a multi-faceted        hiring initiatives to attract
                                                         human capital plan.                 qualified employees
                        agenda on private land. At                                           to address skills gaps
                        the field level, the workforce                                        identified in the Human
                        of the conservation delivery     Management Goal:                    Capital Plan;
                        system includes as many non-     Manage our human capital
                        Federal as Federal employees,    strategically to ensure the       • Develop and implement
                        although the Federal segment     right skills in the right loca-     plans for leadership
                                                         tions to deliver high-quality       recruitment, development,
                        includes a higher proportion                                         and succession that
                        of technical specialists.        products and services.              include specific objectives,
                                                                                             actions, and timetables;
                        NRCS’ primary assets are         To ensure our workforce is in
                        the knowledge, skills, and       the right locations and has the   • Develop a strategic
                        dedication of our employees.     right skills, NRCS will:            workforce planning
                        Our success depends upon our                                         model for managers to
                                                                                             assess and analyze their
                        people’s technical expertise     • Provide training and devel-       workforce, and ensure that
                        and ability to work effectively     opment opportunities for          managers have flexibility
                        with an increasingly diverse       current and new employ-           to organize operations for
                        clientele. The core NRCS           ees to maintain technical         optimal service delivery.
                        technical workforce must           excellence in an environ-
                        continue to possess technical      ment of rapidly expanding       • Use programs, such as the
                                                                                             Agricultural Conservation
                        expertise in a wide range          knowledge and technology.         Enrollees/Seniors (ACES)
                        of disciplines. Our need for       Actions will include:             project, to obtain the
                        leadership and management                                            services of experienced
                        skills will increase as we         • Requiring new employees         workers on a temporary
                        work to bring a wider range          to attend NRCS Boot             basis.
                        of interests and partners            Camp in their first year;
                        together in science-based,                                         • Strengthen the Earth
                                                           • Requiring advanced              Team volunteer program
                        interdisciplinary efforts to                                          to expand NRCS services
                                                             management training for
                        get conservation on the              middle managers;                by using volunteer time,
                        land. Maintaining excellence                                         talent, and energy to help
                                                                                             meet Agency needs.
                                                                               MANAGEMENT INITIATIVES        71

                                                                                                                  H E A LT H Y E N V I R O N M E N T
As the Nation’s conservation
agenda continues to become
                                   Electronic Government
more complex, the need for
technical information and
advice will increasingly exceed
the capacity of the Federal        Management Goal:                       have the capability to use
workforce to respond in a          Make effective use of Internet-         electronic communications
timely manner. The 2002 Farm       based technology to provide            and information management
Bill provided a solution to this   customer-focused service.              technology. Making
problem by reauthorizing the                                              more services available
use of non-Federal entities to     Many NRCS customers                    electronically will improve
assist participants in USDA        are increasing their use               efficiency and performance by
conservation programs. NRCS        of the Internet to find                 allowing customers, partners,
has established processes to       information, conduct                   and employees to reduce
certify individual technical       business, and communicate              travel time, readily share data,
service providers (TSPs) and       with others. In addition to            and complete transactions
to enter into agreements           continuing traditional lines           more quickly.
with governmental and              of communication, NRCS
non-governmental entities          is committed to providing              NRCS will improve and
to provide services. Over          services electronically                enhance its electronic delivery
time, as the market develops,      to those customers who                 system in three ways. We will:
private sector technical
service providers will play an
increasing role in meeting the
growing demand for conser-
vation services. To facilitate
partnerships between NRCS,
agricultural producers, and
technical service providers,
NRCS will:

• Work with TSPs to enhance
  technical competencies;
• Evaluate the economic,
  technical, and customer
  service effectiveness of
                                                Soils data is available
  TSPs; and
• Ensure the TSP certification
  process complies with the
  conservation planning cer-
  tification process and other
  verifiable processes.
                   72      MANAGEMENT INITIATIVES

                        • Expand self-service options
                          available to customers by
                                                            Financial Performance
                          creating self-assessment
                          eligibility tools for programs;

                          developing web-based                    he public investment       • Accelerate accurate end-of-
                          common application forms                in conservation              year reporting;
                          for programs; designing                 through programs
                          and making available a                                             • Require comparative
                                                            administered by NRCS has
                          “Conservation Program Self-                                          financial reporting;
                                                            increased substantially. It is
                          Service Tool” that enables        the responsibility of NRCS to    • Improve timeliness of
                          producers to create their         ensure that taxpayer dollars       payments by expanding the
                          own conservation plans            are spent wisely and efficiently     use of Web-based reporting
                          and select conservation           and are protected from fraud       technologies;
                          programs that help them           and misuse. The President’s
                          meet their objectives;                                             • Introduce additional
                                                            Improving Financial                controls to ensure program
                          improving e-Authentication        Performance Initiative centers
                          to ensure external                                                   eligibility requirements are
                                                            on improving the quality and       met; and
                          customers a secure                timeliness of Federal financial
                          environment; and enabling         information.                     • Conduct internal reviews
                          the public to comment                                                to reduce error and evalu-
                          easily during the rulemaking      In order to strengthen             ate financial management
                          process;                          financial management                procedures.
                        • Foster sharing of data with       controls, NRCS is instituting
                          customers and partners            a permanent framework for
                          by enabling easy access to        assessing risk, measuring
                          selected data, including          payment accuracy,
                          soils, climate, and hydrology     and initiating financial
                          data, conservation practice       management improvements.
                          information, maps, and
                          other related analysis            To ensure that NRCS is issuing
                          products; and                     accurate and timely financial
                                                            information and minimizing
                        • Improve internal business         improper payments, the
                          processes by offering our          Agency will:
                          employees electronic
                          learning courses,                 • Migrate all financial
                          implementing a nationwide           programs to automated,
                          automated system to                 centralized contract and
                          expedite hiring processes,          payment systems, where
                          and improving and                   practicable;
                          developing electronic field
                          office business tools.
                                                                       MANAGEMENT INITIATIVES       73

                                                                                                         H E A LT H Y E N V I R O N M E N T
Budget and Performance Integration                                   to facilitate program
                                                                     streamlining and ensure
                                                                     unified outcomes are
                                                                     achieved across program
                                 and allocation decisions,           boundaries, where

       he Budget and             and measures progress               appropriate;
       Performance Integration   on the Agency’s strategic,        • Utilize data on performance,
       Initiative of the         performance, and business           efficiency, and conservation
President’s Management           plans. This system received the     needs in program allocation
Agenda requires that agencies    American Society for Public         formulas to achieve greater
use performance information      Administration’s prestigious        conservation;
to manage activities and         Organizational Leadership
programs, justify requests       Award in May 2003 and has         • Conduct internal oversight
for funds on the basis of        been featured at over a dozen       reviews to evaluate program
the performance expected,        performance management              effectiveness and efficiency;
and continually improve the      forums around the Nation.           and
efficiency of their operations                                       • Ensure that the multi-level
and programs. NRCS has           To continue to strengthen           performance appraisal
developed an integrated          the integration of budget and       system for individual
accountability system            performance, NRCS will:             performance is linked to
that tracks financial and                                             the Agency’s strategic plan
performance data by program.     • Periodically assess resource      for all organizational units
Data from the integrated           conservation needs across         and at all organizational
accountability system allows       the country;                      levels; that employees’
managers at all levels of the                                        performance awards link to
                                 • Develop and use efficiency
organization to monitor                                              the Agency’s strategic plan
                                   measures to improve effec-
program performance,                                                 goals; and that supervisors
                                   tiveness for each conserva-
costs, and obligations. This                                         are accountable for
                                   tion program;
system enables integration of                                        performance management
performance data with data       • Develop and use common            of their employees.
on the full cost of programs       performance measures
to support budget requests
                   74      APPENDICES


                        Appendix 1.
                        Linking Strategic Goals to Annual Program Performance

                        Performance goals provide the     priorities identified by State     throughout our existence
                        link between the long-term        conservationists through          and continue to be the
                        goals established through         the performance planning          foundation of a healthy
                        strategic planning and the        process. They also reflect the     landscape. Venture Goals
                        day-to-day activities of Agency   level of resources available to   address resource issues that
                        personnel.                        the Agency in the appropria-      are growing in importance as
                                                          tion signed by the President.     a result of current economic
                        The objectives in this plan                                         and demographic trends.
                        form the basis for developing     Performance targets may be
                        annual performance goals          reached through different          Outcomes provide an
                        over the next 5 years.            approaches in different parts      expanded definition of
                        Annual goals are indicators of    of the Nation. In each State,     the resource condition
                        progress that relate directly     Agency managers craft an          identified by the concise
                        to a Mission Goal, but can        approach to most efficiently        goal statements. These
                        be measured annually. The         work toward national and          definitions of ideal conditions
                        annual goals help guide the       local goals.                      are translated into feasible
                        allocation of staff and financial                                     milestones as objectives to be
                        resources.                        Explanation of Terms:             achieved within an identified
                                                                                            time frame.
                        In NRCS, performance goals        Mission Goals identify the
                        are developed at the national     benefits that the Agency was       Objectives include a
                        and state levels. National        established to help people        performance measure, a
                        performance goals are devel-      achieve and maintain. Mission     quantified target to be
                        oped as part of the process       Goals are characterized as        achieved by an identified date,
                        of formulating the President’s    Foundation Goals or Venture       and a baseline against which
                        Budget. These goals provide       Goals. Foundation Goals           progress can be monitored.
                        the framework for the devel-      address the land uses and
                        opment of state performance       resource concerns that have       The performance measures
                        goals. State goals reflect local   been the NRCS’ primary focus      used in objectives are
                                                                                    APPENDICES         75

                                                                                                            H E A LT H Y E N V I R O N M E N T
considered the best current        be affected by the Agency’s         Conservation practices
measures of progress on            activities in the period covered   typically affect multiple
issues that are primary            by this plan.                      resources. Therefore, some
purposes of major programs.                                           practices are shown as helping
Measures were identified by         Key Conservation                   to meet several objectives.
program managers, based on         Practices for Reaching
the authorizing legislation for    the Objective                      Annual Performance
separate programs.                 Progress toward objectives         Measures
Measures are those for which       is the result of conservation      Objectives are the foundation
baseline data are available        applied on the land by             for annual performance goals.
and methodology exists for         farmers, ranchers, and             Most annual performance
determining performance.           other land managers. NRCS          measures are plans developed
For some natural resource          employees help individuals         and practices applied by
outcomes, work is being            and communities assess their       land managers with NRCS
conducted to develop perfor-       resources, develop plans for       assistance. For inventory and
mance measures that better         management actions that            technology development
communicate the results of         will protect and maintain          programs, annual measures
conservation efforts. As data       resource condition, and            are program outputs.
become available, future           apply treatment according to
planning cycles will utilize       the plan. The table lists the      Programs
those measures in defining          major conservation practices       Annual performance targets
Agency objectives.                 that will contribute most          are set for each measure for
                                   to achieving the objective.        each appropriate program.
The Agency targets shown in        In addition to the practices       Annual targets are based
this plan are the aggregate of     shown, additional practices        on the staff time required to
program-specific long-range         are needed on many sites           complete the work and the
targets projected by national      to address site-specific            funds available to support
program managers on the            conditions and meet the            each program activity.
basis of current program           land manager’s individual
authorities, funding levels, and   objectives.                        For some objectives, programs
workload information.                                                 other than those shown in the
                                   For some Venture Goals,            table will have some effect on
For some Venture Goals,            specific objective targets have     meeting the objective.
specific objectives have not        not been established. Agency
been set because data are          programs and conservation
currently not available to         practices, however, do
define a baseline or to project     make contributions toward
and then monitor the effects        achieving the desired
of applying conservation           outcome. Those “Associated
practices. Nevertheless, these     Conservation Practices” have
issues are important and will      been identified.
                   76       APPENDICES

                        Foundation Goals

                        Mission Goal       Outcome           Objective        Key              Annual                Programs
                                                                              Conservation     Performance
                                                                              Practices for    Measures
                                                                              Reaching the

                        High Quality,      Soil Quality:     By 2010,         Residue          Conservation          CO (CTA)
                        Productive Soils   The quality       farmers will     management       plans developed
                                           of intensively    manage 70                         on cropland;
                                           used soils is     percent of       Conservation     number
                                           maintained        cropland under   crop rotations
                                           or enhanced       systems that                      Reduction in          CO (CTA), EQIP,
                                           to enable         maintain or      Terracing        the acreage of        AMA, CRP
                                           sustained         improve soil                      cropland soils
                                           production of     condition and    Strip cropping   damaged by
                                           a safe, healthy   increase soil                     erosion; acres
                                           and abundant      carbon.          Critical area
                                           food supply.                       plantings        Soil erosion          CO (CTA), EQIP,
                                                                                               reduced; tons         AMA, FRPP
                                                                              Cover crops

                                                                                               Soil surveys          CO (Soil Survey)
                                                                                               mapped or
                                                                                               updated; acres

                                                                                               New plant             CO (Conservation
                                                                                               materials released;   Plant Materials)
                                                                                               Foundation seed
                                                                                               stock maintained;

                                                                                               Cropland enrolled     CSP
                                                                                               in CSP with
                                                                                               applied to
                                                                                               increase soil
                                                                                               quality; acres
                                                                                           APPENDICES          77

                                                                                                                    H E A LT H Y E N V I R O N M E N T
Mission Goal   Outcome           Objective            Key                Annual             Programs
                                                      Conservation       Performance
                                                      Practices for      Measures
                                                      Reaching the

Clean and      Water Quality:    By 2010,             Buffer practices   CNMP written;      CO (CTA), EQIP
Abundant       The quality       agricultural                            number
Water          of surface        producers will       Nutrient
               waters and        reduce potential     management
               groundwater       delivery of
               is restored and   sediment and
               maintained to     nutrients from       Comprehensive
                                                      Nutrient           CNMP applied;      CO (CTA), EQIP
               protect human     their operations:                       number
               health, support                        Management
                                   • potential
               a healthy                              Plan (CNMP)
                                      delivery of
               environment,           sediment will
               and encourage          be reduced      Grade              Land with          CSP
               a productive           by 70 million   stabilization      nutrient
               landscape.             tons.           structures         management
                                   • potential                           enhancements
                                      delivery of     Wetland            applied that
                                      nitrogen will   restoration        exceed quality
                                      be reduced                         criteria; acres
                                      by 375,000
                                                                         Watershed          CO (CTA), PL-06,
                                                                         or area-wide       RC&D
                                   • potential                           conservation
                                      delivery of                        plans
                                      phosphorus                         developed for
                                      will be                            water or air
                                      reduced by                         quality; number
                                      70,000 tons.
                                                                         Long-term          PL-566, PL-534
                                                                         during the
                                                                         fiscal year for
                                                                         the purpose of
                                                                         water quality

                                                                         Wetlands           WRP
                                                                         enhanced and
                                                                         restored; acres
                   78       APPENDICES

                        Mission Goal     Outcome           Objective        Key                Annual              Programs
                                                                            Conservation       Performance
                                                                            Practices for      Measures
                                                                            Reaching the

                        Clean and        Water Quantity:   By 2010,         Irrigation water   Irrigation          CO (CTA), EQIP,
                        Abundant         Water is          conserve 8       management         efficiency           AMA
                        Water (cont.)    conserved         million acre-                       improved; acre-
                                         and protected     feet of water.   Irrigation         feet
                                         to ensure an                       systems
                                         abundant and                                          Water supply        CO (Snow Survey)
                                         reliable supply                                       forecasts issued;
                                         for the Nation.                    Irrigation water   number
                                                                                               Watershed           CO (CTA), PL-06
                                                                                               or area-wide
                                                                            Structure for
                                                                                               resource plans,
                                                                            water control
                                                                                               studies or
                                                                                               for water
                                                                                               conservation or
                                                                                               water supply;

                                                                                               Multi-purpose       PL-566, PL-534
                                                                                               water supply
                                                                                               Watershed           CO (CTA), PL-06
                                                                                               or area-wide
                                                                                               resource plans,
                                                                                               studies or
                                                                                               for flood
                                                                                               or mitigation;

                                                                                               Flood               PL-566, PL-534
                                                                                               or mitigation
                                                                                               easements, and
                                                                                               other measures;
                                                                                          APPENDICES         79

                                                                                                                  H E A LT H Y E N V I R O N M E N T
Mission Goal    Outcome           Objective       Key               Annual                  Programs
                                                  Conservation      Performance
                                                  Practices for     Measures
                                                  Reaching the

Clean and                                                           Unsafe dams             Watershed Rehab
Abundant                                                            rehabilitated or
Water (cont.)                                                       removed; number

Healthy Plant   Grassland,        By 2010,        Prescribed        Conservation plans      CO (CTA)
and Animal      Rangeland,        farmers,        grazing           written for grazing
Communities     and Forest        ranchers, and                     land; acres
                Ecosystems:       private non-    Integrated pest
                Grassland,        industrial      management        Grazing land with       CO (CTA), EQIP
                rangeland,        forest owners                     conservation
                and forest        will apply      Brush             applied to treat
                ecosystems        management      management        the resource base;
                are productive,   that will                         acres
                diverse, and      maintain        Prescribed
                resilient.        or improve      burning
                                  long-term                         Land with grazing       CSP
                                  vegetative                        management
                                                  Use exclusion
                                  condition on                      enhancements
                                  150 million                       applied that
                                  acres of                          exceed quality
                                  grazing and                       criteria; acres
                                  forest land.
                                                                    Non-federal land        WHIP
                                                                    managed for the
                                                                    protection and
                                                                    enhancement of
                                                                    habitat for species
                                                                    with declining
                                                                    populations; acres

                                                                    Grazing land            GRP
                                                                    protected by a
                                                                    cumulative acres

                                                                    New plant               CO (Conservation
                                                                    materials released      Plant Materials)
                                                                    to commercial
                                                                    growers; number
                   80       APPENDICES

                        Mission Goal     Outcome             Objective          Key                Annual             Programs
                                                                                Conservation       Performance
                                                                                Practices for      Measures
                                                                                Reaching the

                        Healthy Plant    Fish and            By 2010, an        Restoration and    Non-federal        CO (CTA), CRP,
                        and Animal       Wildlife Habitat:   additional 9       management         land treated for   RC&D, WHIP
                        Communities      Working lands       million acres      of declining       fish and wildlife
                        (cont.)          and waters          of essential       habitats           habitat; acres
                                         provide habitat     habitat will be
                                         for diverse and     improved and       Stream corridor    Non-federal        CO (CTA), EQIP,
                                         healthy wildlife,   managed to         restoration        land managed       WHIP, GRP
                                         aquatic species,    benefit at-risk                        for the
                                         and plant           and declining      Food plots         protection and
                                         communities.        species.                              enhancement
                                                                                Wetland            of habitat for
                                                                                wildlife habitat   species with
                                                                                management         declining
                                                                                Upland             acres
                                                                                wildlife habitat

                                         Wetlands:           By 2010,           Wetland            Wetlands           CO (CTA), WRP,
                                         Wetlands            resource           restoration        created,           CRP
                                         provide quality     managers will                         restored or
                                         habitat for         create, restore,   Wetland            enhanced; acres
                                         migratory           or enhance 1.5     creation
                                         birds and other     million acres
                                         wildlife, protect   of wetlands on
                                         water quality,      non-Federal
                                         and reduce          lands.
                                         flood damages.
                                                                                         APPENDICES          81

                                                                                                                  H E A LT H Y E N V I R O N M E N T
Venture Goals

Mission       Outcome                 Objective        Associated         Annual               Programs
Goal                                                   Conservation       Performance
                                                       Practices          Measures

Clean Air     Air Quality:            To be estab-     Atmospheric        Watershed or         CO (CTA),
              Agriculture             lished. The      resource quality   area-wide plans      PL-06, RC&D
              makes a positive        objective will   management         develolped for air
              contribution to         be measured                         quality; number
              local air quality       by tons
              and the Nation’s        of carbon
              efforts to sequester    sequestered.     Cover crops
              carbon.                                  Residue
                                                                                               EQIP, CSP,
                                                                                               WRP (annual
                                                       Mulching                                to be
                                                       Conservation                            established)
                                                       crop rotations
                                                       Tree plantings
An Adequate   Energy: Agricultural    To be estab-     Residue                                 EQIP, CSP
Energy        activities conserve     lished.          management
Supply        energy, and             The objective
              agricultural lands      will be          Comprehensive
              are a source of         measured         nutrient
              environmentally         by BTUs          management
              sustainable             conserved.
              biofuels and
              renewable energy.

Working       Connected               By 2010, 70                         Farmland and         FRPP, GRP
Farm and      landscapes sustain      percent of                          grazing land
Ranch Lands   a viable agricultural   farms and                           protected by
              sector and natural      ranches                             conservation
              resource quality.       protected                           easements; acres
                                      under                               Prime, unique, and FRPP
                                      easements                           important farm-
                                      will remain                         land protected by
                                      in active                           conservation ease-
                                      agriculture.                        ments from conver-
                                                                          sion to non-agricul-
                                                                          tural uses; acres
                   82      APPENDICES

                        Appendix 2.
                        Program Evaluations

                        Periodic evaluations of            laws, executive orders,          A “Logic Model” analysis of
                        the implementation and             regulations, policies,           each Agency program has
                        accomplishments of individual      and procedures. Review           been conducted to clarify the
                        conservation programs              types include surveys,           primary outcomes authorized
                        administered by NRCS are           comprehensive reviews,           for the program and establish
                        a critical element of overall      and quick response reviews,      annual, long-term, and
                        performance measurement.           depending on the issue,          efficiency measures for
                        Findings of periodic and           scope, and depth of review       evaluating the performance of
                        annual evaluations are used        needed.                          the program. The performance
                        to refine Agency objectives                                          measures and targets
                                                         • State offices are responsible
                        and guide Agency strategic                                          developed through the Logic
                                                           for compliance reviews of
                        planning. A variety of program                                      Model process provided the
                                                           the individual programmatic
                        reviews and evaluations are                                         basis for the Objectives in this
                                                           activities and for operational
                        routinely conducted within                                          strategic plan.
                                                           reviews within their
                                                                                            The Logic Model process was
                        • Program managers conduct       Since 2003, reviews have           coordinated with reviews
                          programmatic reviews           been conducted of program          conducted with the Office
                          to assess the propriety of     management issues for              of Management and Budget
                          program implementation at      the Agency’s financial              using the Program Assessment
                          the field level.                assistance programs to             Rating Tool (PART).
                                                         assess management controls
                        • The Oversight and
                                                         and ensure efficiency of             During the period covered by
                          Evaluation Staff conducts
                                                         operations and adherence to        this strategic plan, NRCS will
                          independent reviews of
                                                         policy and rules.                  conduct the following major
                          programs to ascertain
                                                                                            evaluations of its programs.
                          compliance with existing
                                                                                             APPENDICES           83

                                                                                                                       H E A LT H Y E N V I R O N M E N T
Program Evaluation

Program Evaluations                  General Scope                                                  End date

Program Evaluation of the Wildlife   Identify opportunities for improvements in achieving                 2006
Habitat Incentives Program           program purpose.

Program Evaluation of Water          Determine whether water resources programs provide                   2006
Resources Programs                   duplicative services, are streamlined for efficiency, and are
                                     as effective as they can be in meeting objectives.

Activity-Based Costing Assessment    Develop estimates of the time, by technical discipline,              2006
                                     required at all levels of the Agency to produce each of the
                                     major products and services of Agency programs.

Assessment of the environmental      Agency effort to develop capacity to report in quantitative          2008
benefits of Farm Bill Conservation    terms the annual soil quality improvements, water quality
Programs                             improvements, and carbon sequestration gains resulting
                                     from application of conservation under the Farm Bill

Environmental Quality Incentives     Conduct internal program evaluations of all Agency                   2007-
Program, Resources Conservation      programs to assess how effectively each contributes to               2010
and Development Program,             achieving the desired outcomes and to estimate benefits
Wetlands Reserve Program, Farm       achieved, cost effectiveness, and extent to which customer
and Ranch Lands Protection           needs and congressional intent are met.
Program, National Resources
Inventory, Soil Survey Program,
                                     In addition, reviews using OMB’s PART tool will be
Snow Survey and Water Supply
                                     conducted in cooperation with OMB.
Forecasting Program, and Plant
Materials Program
                   84      APPENDICES

                        Appendix 3.
                        Key External Factors

                        The goals, objectives, and        producers now operate in           implement conservation
                        strategies identified in this      a global, technologically          practices or adopt new
                        strategic plan are all affected    advanced, rapidly diversifying,    technology is strongly
                        by factors driving change in      highly competitive                 affected by their immediate
                        society. These driving forces—    business environment that          economic situation and their
                        fundamental changes in family     is driven by increasingly          personal cost/benefit analysis
                        structure and the workforce,      sophisticated consumers.           of adopting new conservation
                        globalization of markets          Economic forces, such as           measures.
                        and culture, catastrophic         global and domestic market
                        natural events, advances in       fluctuations, competition,          Demographic pressures
                        information and biological        and economies of scale             driving use of natural
                        and other technologies—are        affect profitability, product        resources. Global population
                        at work in agriculture as         mix decisions, international       continues to increase. A
                        well. These factors affect         trade agreements, and              growing and increasingly
                        NRCS internal processes and       advances in technology. And,       mobile world population
                        the resources necessary to        complexity of operations           results in greater ethnic and
                        deliver services. NRCS goals      have contributed to shifts in      racial diversity in this Nation’s
                        and strategies are based          the location of production,        communities. The Nation’s
                        on analysis of the external       changes in the size of             population is no longer largely
                        environment and are designed      production units, and the          rural; nearly 80 percent of
                        to respond effectively within      vertical integration of            Americans live in urban and
                        the context of current            livestock production and           suburban areas. Population
                        conditions. Nevertheless,         other industries. Ranchers and     is also highly concentrated,
                        some factors beyond the           operators of large farms are       with nearly 75 percent living
                        control of NRCS may strongly      sensitive to the fluctuations       within 2 hours of a coast.
                        influence our ability to           of global markets. Smaller         Rates of population growth
                        achieve our objectives. The       operations generally depend        in the past few years have
                        most influential of these          on non-farm income to              been high in the West, where
                        uncontrollable external factors   maintain viability and are         water supplies are generally
                        include:                          therefore closely bound to         limited and many ecosystems
                                                          other parts of the economy.        are fragile. Greater population
                        Economic forces affecting          Regardless of scale, the ability   densities exert greater
                        agriculture. Agricultural         of farmers and ranchers to         pressures on the environment,
                                                                                    APPENDICES         85

                                                                                                            H E A LT H Y E N V I R O N M E N T
creating a need for increased    agricultural production            or are unusually frequent
effort to minimize the            technology can have both           during the next five years, it
impacts. Continuing demand       beneficial and adverse effects       may be extremely difficult to
for new sites for homes and      on the environment. Research       achieve the natural resource
industries, transportation,      on the possible environmental      improvements envisioned in
and recreation results in        impacts of new technology          this plan.
conversion of agricultural       and development of effective
land to non-agricultural uses    ways to address existing           Availability of technical
and fragmentation of open        and emerging problems              expertise to advise natural
space. As the landscape          is of critical importance.         resource managers. The
increasingly becomes             NRCS depends heavily on            public’s financial investment in
a mosaic of developed            conservation technology            helping producers implement
areas scattered within           developed by other agencies,       conservation was greatly
agricultural land, the need      land grant institutions, and the   expanded by the 2002 Farm
for conservation increases       private sector. These entities’    Bill. In the next few years, we
while the options available to   continued investment in            anticipate that the market-
producers may be constrained.    research and development           based approach will spur pri-
Demographic changes              for conservation technology        vate investment to augment
also have implications for       is essential for the Agency’s      the public funds invested in
the delivery of appropriate      success. If development of         conservation. Most producers,
conservation assistance to an    new conservation technol-          however, need technical
increasingly diverse customer    ogy does not keep pace with        advice and assistance to plan
base that is no longer           changes in environmental           and apply effective conserva-
primarily rural. Effectively      and agricultural conditions,       tion. The NRCS workforce did
protecting resources and the     we may be poorly equipped          not significantly increase as a
environment in this diverse      to meet emerging needs and         result of the 2002 Farm Bill. As
landscape requires the joint     achieve the conservation           directed in the Farm Bill, NRCS
effort of many entities across    targets identified in this plan.    has established a process to
wide areas of the landscape.                                        certify private sector technical
Activities in parts of an area   Unusual or prolonged adverse       service providers (TSPs) to
outside USDA influence can        environmental conditions.          help producers plan and
offset the effects of improved     Weather extremes always pose       implement conservation. The
management of agricultural       a challenge to agriculture and     cadre of TSPs is increasing
land, so that the watershed      conservation. Recent episodic      slowly. While producers in
or ecosystem as a whole may      events such as drought, flood-      some parts of the country
fail to show the expected        ing, hurricanes, and major         have access to TSPs for at
improvement.                     wildfires have caused sub-          least some types of technical
                                 stantial damage to soil, water,    assistance, the combined
Dependence on external                                              public and private workforce is
                                 wildlife habitat, and related
sources for conservation                                            still not able to provide timely
                                 natural resources. If these
technology. Advances in                                             assistance in many areas.
                                 events occur on a large scale,
                   86      APPENDICES

                        Appendix 4.
                        Strategic Planning in NRCS

                        Strategic Planning in NRCS         Inventories and                   resource analyses project
                        involves all levels of the         Assessments                       the impact on resource
                        Agency, as well as local, State,   Information on the status,        conditions, and workload
                        and Tribal governments,            condition, and trends of the      analyses define costs.
                        government agencies, and           Nation’s natural resources
                        other partners and stakehold-      as well as workload,              Consultation and
                        ers. It is a continuing process    performance, and workforce        Consensus
                        by which the Agency envisions      data is gathered and assessed     Consultation with stakeholders,
                        its future and identifies the       to determine resource             partners, government
                        procedures, operations, and        concerns and approaches           agencies, Tribes, and interest
                        resources necessary to achieve     to address identified needs.       groups helps define general
                        that future. Activities are        Information is gathered at        goals, objectives, and
                        conducted in accordance with       all levels of the Agency, from    performance targets.
                        the Government Performance         national assessments to locally
                        and Results Act of 1993 and        identified priorities.             Communication
                        USDA guidelines.                                                     The plan, with the associated
                                                           Identification and                 goals and performance
                        The NRCS strategic planning        Analysis of Alternatives          targets, is communicated to all
                        process includes:                  Alternative strategies for        levels of the Agency and to all
                                                           addressing identified resource     stakeholders.
                                                           concerns are developed and
                                                           analyzed. Science-based           Evaluation of Results
                                                                                             Review and evaluation
                                                                                             identify new information and
                                                                                             analytical needs, leading in to
                                                                                             the next planning cycle.
                                                                  APPENDICES   87

                                                                                    H E A LT H Y E N V I R O N M E N T
FY 2005 Strategic               Agency discipline experts and
Planning Process                reviewed studies conducted
                                by NRCS and other agencies.
During FY 2005, NRCS            They designed and conducted
initiated an intensive          a Web-based survey of
strategic planning process      employees. The planning
to establish the Agency’s       process also included more
priorities and direction for    than 20 meetings and focus
the next 10 to 20 years. A      group sessions with external
core work team representing     customers, partners, and other
all levels of the Agency and    stakeholders. Key findings
all regions developed the       from focus group sessions are
planning process, identified     identified in Appendix 8.
needed information,
and prepared working            The assessments provided
materials for consideration     data and information on
by the steering team. The       natural resource issues,
steering team, composed         customer needs, and Agency
of State conservationists       products and services. The
and national-level officials,     steering team defined and
evaluated options and made      made preliminary assessments
recommendations to the Chief.   of the Agency’s key customers:
                                who they are today and who
The planning process            they may be in the future.
included assessments of         Based on analyses of this
both internal and external      information, the Agency’s
conditions and issues. Core     strategic plan includes revised
team analysts consulted with    natural resource goals and
                                objectives and key tasks for
                                achieving them.
                   88       APPENDICES

                        Appendix 5.
                        NRCS Programs and Their Legislative Authorities

                        NRCS program                               Authority

                        Conservation Operations (CO):              Soil and Water Resources Conservation Act of 1977
                         -Conservation Technical Assistance        (16 U.S.C. 2001-2009)
                           (CTA)                                   Soil Surveys for Resource Planning and Development Act of 1966
                         -Soil Survey                              (40 U.S.C. Chapter 40 3271-3274)
                         -Snow Survey and Water Supply             Soil Conservation and Domestic Allotment Act of 1935
                           Forecasting                             (16 U.S.C. 590a-f )(590q)
                         -Conservation Plant Materials             Farmland Protection Policy Act of 1981 (7 U.S.C 4201)

                        Watershed Surveys and Planning             Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Act of 1954
                                                                   (16 U.S.C. 1001-1012)

                        Watershed and Flood Prevention             Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Act of 1954 (P.L. 83-
                        Operations (P.L.-566, P.L.-534)            566), as amended (16 U.S.C. 1001-1009)
                                                                   Flood Control Act of 1944 (P.L. 78-534)(33 U.S.C. 701b-1)

                        Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP)       Agricultural Credit Act of 1978 (16 U.S.C. 2203)
                                                                   Emergency Operations authorization of 1950
                                                                   (16 U.S.C. 701b-1)

                        Resource Conservation and Development      Agriculture and Food Act of 1981 (16 U.S.C. 3451), as amended
                        Program (RC&D)

                        Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP)             Food Security Act of 1985 (16 U.S.C. 3837, et. seq.), as amended

                        Environmental Quality Incentives Program   Food Security Act of 1985 (16 U.S.C. 3839aa, et. seq.), as amended

                        Farm and Ranch Lands Protection            Food Security Act of 1985 (16 U.S.C. 3838h and 3838i), as
                        Program (FRPP)                             amended

                        Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program        Food Security Act of 1985 (16 U.S.C. 3839bb-1), as amended

                        Watershed Rehabilitation Program           Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Act of 1954
                                                                   (16 U.S.C. 1001-1012), as amended

                        Conservation Security Program (CSP)        Food Security Act of 1985, (16 U.S.C. 3838 et. seq.), as amended

                        Grassland Reserve Program (GRP)            Food Security Act of 1985, (16 U.S.C. 3838n et.seq.), as amended
                                                                                             APPENDICES          89

                                                                                                                      H E A LT H Y E N V I R O N M E N T
Appendix 6.
Summary of NRCS Goals, Outcomes, and Objectives

Mission Goal       Outcome                                      Objective

High-quality,      Soil Quality: The quality of intensively     By 2010, farmers will manage 70 percent of
Productive Soils   used soils is maintained or enhanced to      cropland under systems that maintain or increase
                   enable sustained production of a safe,       soil condition and soil carbon.
                   healthy, and abundant food supply.
Clean and          Water Quality: The quality of surface        By 2010, agricultural operators will reduce
Abundant Water     waters and groundwater is restored and       potential delivery of sediment and nutrients from
                   maintained to protect human health,          their operations:
                   support a healthy environment, and             • Potential delivery of sediment will be
                   encourage a productive landscape.                 reduced by 70 million tons.
                                                                  • Potential delivery of nitrogen will be reduced
                                                                    by 375,000 tons.
                                                                  • Potential delivery of phosphorus will be
                                                                    reduced by 70,000 tons.
                   Water Quantity: Water is conserved and       By 2010, 8 million acre-feet of water will be
                   protected to ensure an abundant and          conserved.
                   reliable supply for the Nation.
Healthy Plant      Grasslands, Rangeland, and Forest            By 2010, farmers, ranchers, and private non-
and Animal         Ecosystems: Grassland, rangeland,            industrial forest owners will apply management
Communities        and forest ecosystems are productive,        that will maintain or improve long-term
                   diverse and resilient.                       vegetative condition on 150 million acres of
                                                                grazing and forest land.
                   Fish and Wildlife Habitat: Working lands     By 2010, an additional 9 million acres of essential
                   and waters provide habitat for diverse       habitat will be improved and managed to benefit
                   and healthy wildlife, aquatic species, and   at-risk and declining species.
                   plant communities.
                   Wetlands: Wetlands provide quality           By 2010, land managers will create, restore or
                   habitat for migratory birds and other        enhance 1.5 million acres of wetlands on non-
                   wildlife, protect water quality, and         Federal.
                   reduce flood damages.
Clean Air          Air Quality: Agriculture makes a positive    To be established. The objective will be measured
                   contribution to local air quality and to     by tons of carbon sequestered.
                   the Nation’s efforts to sequester carbon.
An Adequate        Agricultural activities conserve energy      To be established. The objective will be measured
Energy Supply      and agricultural lands are a source of       by BTUs conserved.
                   environmentally sustainable biofuels
                   and renewable energy.
Working Farm and   Connected landscapes that sustain a          By 2015, 70 percent of farms and ranches
Ranch Lands        viable agriculture and natural resource      protected under easements will remain in active
                   quality.                                     agriculture.
                   90      APPENDICES

                        Appendix 7.
                        Linkage of NRCS Strategic Plan to USDA Strategic Plan for FY 2005-2010

                        USDA Strategic Goal/        Agency Strategic   Key Outcome                    Agency Objectives
                        Objective                   Goal

                        USDA Strategic Goal 6:      Agency Goal:       Water Quality: The quality     Objective: By 2010,
                        Protect and Enhance the     Clean and          of surface waters and          agricultural producers will
                        Nation’s Natural Resource   Abundant Water     groundwater is restored        reduce potential delivery
                        Base and Environment                           and maintained to              of sediment and nutrients
                                                                       protect human health,          from their operations:
                        USDA Strategic                                 support a healthy                 • potential delivery
                        Objective 6.1: Protect                         environment, and                    of sediment will be
                        Watershed Health                               encourage a productive              reduced by 70 million
                        to Ensure Clean and                            landscape.                          tons.
                        Abundant Water                                                                   • potential delivery
                                                                                                           of nitrogen will be
                                                                                                           reduced by 375,000
                                                                                                         • potential delivery of
                                                                                                           phosphorus will be
                                                                                                           reduced by 70,000 tons.

                                                                       Water Quantity: Water is       Objective: By 2010, conserve
                                                                       conserved and protected        8 million acre-feet of water.
                                                                       to ensure an abundant
                                                                       and reliable supply for
                                                                       the Nation.

                                                    Agency Goal:       Working Farm and               Objective: By 2010, 70
                                                    Working Farm and   Ranch Land Preservation:       percent of farms and
                                                    Ranch Lands        Connected landscapes           ranches protected under
                                                                       sustain a viable               easements will remain in
                                                                       agriculture and natural        agriculture.
                                                                       resource quality.

                        USDA Strategic Goal         Agency Goal:       Soil Quality: The quality      Objective: By 2010, farmers
                        6: Protect and Enhance      High Quality,      of intensively used soils is   will manage 70 percent of
                        the Nation’s Natural        Productive Soils   maintained or enhanced         cropland under systems that
                        Resource Base and                              to enable sustained            maintain or improve soil
                        Environment                                    production of a safe,          condition and increase soil
                                                                       healthy, and abundant          carbon.
                        USDA Strategic                                 food supply.
                        Objective 6.2:
                        Enhance Soil Quality        Agency Goal:       Air Resources: Agriculture     Objective: To be established.
                        to Maintain Productive      Clean Air          makes a positive               The objective will be
                        Working Cropland                               contribution to local air      measured by tons of carbon
                                                                       quality and the Nation’s       sequestered.
                                                                       efforts to sequester
                                                                                        APPENDICES         91

                                                                                                                H E A LT H Y E N V I R O N M E N T
USDA Strategic Goal/     Agency Strategic     Key Outcome                  Agency Objectives
Objective                Goal

                         Agency Goal:         Energy: Agricultural         Objective: To be established.
                         An Adequate          activities conserve          The objective will be
                         Energy Supply        energy and agricultural      measured by BTUs
                                              lands are a source           conserved.
                                              of environmentally
                                              sustainable biofuels
                                              and renewable energy.

USDA Strategic Goal      Agency Goal:         Grasslands, Rangeland,       Objective: By 2010, farmers,
6: Protect and Enhance   Healthy Plant and    and Forest Ecosystems:       ranchers, and private non-
the Nation’s Natural     Animal Communities   Grassland, rangeland, and    industrial forest owners will
Resource Base and                             forest ecosystems are        apply management that will
Environment                                   productive, diverse, and     maintain or improve long-
                                              resilient.                   term vegetative condition
USDA Strategic                                                             on 150 million acres of
Objective 6.3: Protect                                                     grazing and forest land.
Forests and Grazing
USDA Strategic Goal      Agency Goal:         Fish and Wildlife Habitat:   Objective: By 2010, an
6: Protect and Enhance   Healthy Plant and    Working lands and            additional 9 million acres
the Nation’s Natural     Animal Communities   waters provide habitat       of essential habitat will be
Resource Base and                             for diverse and healthy      improved and managed to
Environment                                   wildlife, aquatic species,   benefit at-risk and declining
                                              and plant communities.       species.
USDA Strategic
Objective 6.4: Protect
and Enhance Wildlife
Habitat to Benefit                             Wetlands: Wetlands           Objective: By 2010, resource
Desired, At-Risk, and                         provide quality habitat      managers will create,
Declining Species                             for migratory birds and      restore, or enhance 1.5
                                              other wildlife, protect      million acres of wetlands on
                                              water quality, and reduce    non-Federal lands.
                                              flood damages.
                   92      APPENDICES

                        Appendix 8.
                        Customer Focus Groups – Key Findings

                        In summer 2005, 11 customer
                        focus group meetings were
                        held across the country in
                        order to gather information
                        from NRCS’ diverse customer
                        base. Groups were asked for
                        input on how the Agency
                        could improve and adjust
                        its services and products in             Meeting         Date                        Location
                        the next 2-5 years, as well as
                        what the group foresaw as the
                        drivers of change in the next            1               May 24, 2005                Dixon, CA
                        20 years. The meetings were              2               May 25, 2005                Billings, MT
                        undertaken through a formal              3               May 26, 2005                Monmouth, IL
                        agreement with the National              4               May 31, 2005                Millbrook, NY
                        Association of Conservation              5               June 2, 2005                Victoria, TX
                        Districts and conducted by an
                                                                 6               June 3, 2005                Aurora, CO
                        external third party consult-
                                                                 7               June 7, 2005                Canton, MS
                        ing firm with focus groups
                        expertise. The 11 focus group            8               August 3, 2005              Grand Forks, ND
                        meetings were held in the                9               August 12, 2005             Oregon City, OR
                        locations at right.                      10              August 17, 2005             Hadley, MA
                                                                 11              August 18, 2005             Sanford, NC

                        Approximately 15 to 20           Natural Resource                       Attendees expressed that
                        participants attended            Concerns                               increasing land values and
                        each focus group. Meeting        The most common themes                 urban sprawl were the largest
                        attendees included a broad       were related to land frag-             contributors to reduced
                        range of current and future      mentation, urban sprawl, the           profitability, increasing rents,
                        clients, including livestock     proliferation of smaller farms         absentee ownership, and the
                        and crop producers, as well      operated by residential or             declining entry of new farm-
                        as consultants and non-profit     lifestyle farmers, and the rise        ers. Attendees also expressed
                        organizations.                   of absentee landownership.             their concern that rising land
                                                                                      APPENDICES         93

                                                                                                              H E A LT H Y E N V I R O N M E N T
values have caused landown-        that considers water provision     address conservation issues
ers to be more interested in       and waste water management         at the farm and ranch scale,
short-term profitable uses          is needed, particularly where      as well as at the community,
for their land, rather than the    development pressures              watershed and regional level.
long-term sustainability of        are the greatest. Attendees        A majority of participants
their land and the adoption        suggested that NRCS take           believe NRCS has the technical
of conservation practices. Ab-     an active role in watershed        capabilities to develop the
sentee owners and producers        management planning, by            variety of tools necessary to
with limited lease options are     facilitating the convening of      meet future needs; however,
reluctant to invest in conserva-   water boards, assessing and        the focus groups were less
tion practices that come at a      identifying water availabil-       certain about the effective
cost and are not transportable.    ity, and working to develop        deployment of these tools
With increasingly less land        additional water conservation      to adjust to local conditions.
to farm, particularly in urban     measures that address water        Among all of the focus groups,
fringe areas, producers are        conservation and reduce the        there was a consistent call
exploring ways to make less        negative impacts of flooding.       for more help in the form of
land more profitable, includ-                                          technical assistance to accom-
ing diversification, exploration    Focus group attendees              plish conservation, with and
of niche crops, precision          expressed a desire to maintain     without financial assistance.
farming, and agri-tourism.         wildlife populations and
                                   ensure their genetic diver-        Focus group attendees
Water quality and future           sity. In some portions of the      requested that NRCS continue
water supplies were common         country, attendees expressed       to develop comprehensive
themes shared throughout the       a need to retain old growth        standards, such as those con-
focus groups. Focus groups         forests and woodlands. They        tained within the Field Office
stressed the need to maintain      also requested more data and       Technical Guides, soil surveys,
and improve water quality,         information on brush and           and other natural resource
by addressing nutrient and         animal control and invasive        data tools, with an emphasis
pesticide runoff from cropland      species.                           on making them easy to read,
and animal operations and                                             understandable, and flex-
by controlling point source        NRCS Technical Services            ible for use at the local level.
pollution from developed           Focus groups stressed the          Information and outreach
areas. In addition, focus group    need for NRCS to continue          continues to be important, de-
attendees expressed concern        to provide science-based,          spite a declining staff capacity
about depleting aquifers and       technical expertise. There is an   available for outreach. While
the need to retain water for       expectation that NRCS can and      one-on-one visits may be less
agricultural uses. Integrated      should provide conservation        and less feasible, Web sites,
water management planning          planning and analysis skills to    public meetings, and targeting
                   94      APPENDICES

                        specific audiences may be           improve existing programs         to contribute to purchase of
                        the best approach to achieve       included: streamlining            development rights programs
                        conservation outcomes.             existing programs; making         and other conservation
                                                           them more user-friendly with      programs that would offset
                        Attendees supported                simple, easy-to-read forms;       the negative environmental
                        the role of NRCS and the           hosting eligibility and sign-up   impacts of development in
                        conservation districts and         meetings; and working with        rural areas. Related to urban
                        the grassroots delivery            tenants to help them “sell”       encroachment and land
                        system. They expressed the         conservation to absentee          fragmentation, there is a need
                        need for NRCS to continue          landowners.                       to expand technical guidelines
                        to cultivate partnerships                                            and programs to assist small-
                        across Federal, Tribal, State,     Future Directions                 lot owners with wildlife, soil
                        and local boundaries to            The focus groups saw the need     and water conservation.
                        achieve common goals, such         for NRCS to provide technical
                        as sediment reduction in           and financial assistance in the    In summary, attendees
                        reservoirs, estuary health,        areas of water quality, farm      believed NRCS should
                        and other water quality and        and ranch land protection,        continue to provide technical
                        water supply concerns. To          wildlife habitat, invasive        expertise to individuals and
                        accomplish these partnering        and noxious plant species         groups on private lands to
                        tasks, there is a need to          control, carbon sequestration,    address soil, water, wildlife,
                        employ and train NRCS staff to      and renewable energy.             and other natural resource,
                        have the skills and capabilities   The Agency should focus           concerns. The Agency
                        necessary to establish and         on educating the broader          should also work to expand
                        foster partnerships.               public about conservation,        and foster partnerships
                                                           as demographics change            to address regional and
                        Financial Assistance               and agricultural operations       watershed-scale efforts,
                        Attendees supported the            become more diversified,           obtaining multiple resource
                        use of financial assistance         with a more varied clientele.     benefits in the process. To
                        to address resource needs          For example, attendees            ensure quality decisionmaking
                        and the need for continued         suggested that NRCS work          now and in the future, NRCS
                        funding by Congress of             with developers to install        should continue to focus
                        these programs. Attendees          buffer zones, minimizing           on maintaining a complete
                        discouraged two-week sign-         friction between rural and        national technical assistance
                        up periods and requested           urban land users. Attendees       infrastructure with emphasis
                        the ability to make programs       also encouraged the               on the technical data,
                        flexible at the local level to      development of a rural lands      information, knowledge, tools,
                        address specific resource           mitigation banking program        and procedures.
                        needs. Suggestions to              that would require developers
                                                                                       APPENDICES         95

                                                                                                               H E A LT H Y E N V I R O N M E N T
Appendix 9.
All Employee Survey – Summary of Results

In July 2005, an All Employee       to Agency customers. The           increasing their use of Agency
Survey was conducted to             majority were Agency               products and services, they
gather input from Agency staff       employees of 11 years              are expected to remain a small
at all organizational levels. The   or longer. Geographic              share of the overall Agency
survey was made available via       distribution of responses          customer base.
the Agency’s Intranet and was       was fairly uniform across the
active for a two-week period.       Agency’s three regions.            Technical Service Delivery
Employees were asked to                                                Employees value the technical
respond to 15 questions that        Mission and Values                 assistance delivery system,
sought their perspectives on a      Employees strongly support         and identify one-on-one
wide range of issues including      and are motivated by the           technical assistance as
the Agency mission statement        Agency’s core mission of           the current and future
and guiding principles, busi-       helping people conserve,           emphasis for service delivery.
ness lines, customer segments,      maintain, and improve natural      Conservation planning and
natural resource concerns, and      resources. Most employees          technical consultations and
service delivery.                   feel that they and their           conservation implementation
                                    colleagues are committed to a      currently comprise about
Survey results were used to         service organization and agree     half of employees’ daily work
inform the Strategic Planning       that “Technical Excellence” is     activity. Customer demand
Steering Team deliberations,        highly valued. They also feel      for conservation planning
often serving to illuminate         that they have the knowledge       and technical consultations
points of divergence. Survey        and skills to perform their jobs   is expected to increase over
results were particularly useful    effectively.                        the next 10 to 20 years, as is
in guiding discussions on                                              the importance of electronic
mission and vision statements       Customers                          information and service
and customer segments,              The agricultural customer          delivery methods.
and in defining the Agency           segment is clearly the primary
mission goals, objectives, and      group with whom Agency             Natural Resource Issues
key tasks reflected in this plan.    employees work. Full- and          Soil erosion and water quality
The following summarizes key        part-time farmers and              are the leading natural
survey results.                     ranchers, limited resource         resource issues for which
                                    producers, and conservation        customers presently seek
Survey Response and                 partners are the primary           assistance from Agency
Respondents                         users of Agency products           employees. In the future,
Nearly 3,000 survey responses       and services. These groups         water quantity, soil and plant
were received. Three-fourths        are expected to remain the         condition, and connected
of the responses were from          Agency’s primary customers in      landscapes are expected to
field office employees,                the future. While specialty crop   increase in importance, but will
engaged in providing                producers, communicators,          not outpace soil erosion and
technical assistance directly       citizen groups, and private        water quality as the primary
                                    sector consultants will be         natural resource issues.
                   96      APPENDICES

                        Appendix 10.
                        NRCS Business Lines

                        NRCS Business Lines                conserve natural resources             and ecological concerns
                        and Product and Service            (soil, water, air, plant and           over a defined geographi-
                        Descriptions                       animal) within their social            cal area. An area-wide plan
                                                           and economic interests. The            is generally at a larger scale
                        The mission of the Natural         planning process will identify         than a site-specific plan and
                        Resources Conservation             natural resource problems              allows the client or stake-
                        Service is Helping People Help     and opportunities, determine           holder to assess natural
                        the Land.                          objectives, inventory resources,       resource concerns, deter-
                                                           analyze resource data,                 mine what conditions are to
                        In fulfilling that “helping         formulate alternatives, evaluate       be desired, and formulate
                        people” portion of this natural-   alternatives, and help with the        alternatives in achieving
                        resource-based mission,            selection of alternatives, as well     plan objectives.
                        NRCS provides technical and        as implementation of the plan
                                                                                                • Watershed Plan: Watershed
                        financial assistance to land        and evaluation of the plan.
                                                                                                  plans include the formula-
                        owners and managers through                                               tion of integrated proposals
                        five business lines. Business       Product or Service Lines
                                                                                                  for the entire watershed
                        lines are groups of similar        1. Conservation Plans.
                                                                                                  with natural resource man-
                        products and services that         NRCS develops conservation
                                                                                                  agement in which local deci-
                        Agency employees deliver to        plans with customers for a
                                                                                                  sion-makers make informed
                        external customers. There are      geographic area they define.
                                                                                                  choices that depend on the
                        15 core products and services      The scale of the plans include:
                                                                                                  objectives and priorities of
                        in the business lines. Four                                               the people living in the area.
                        of the five business lines are      • Site-specific Plan: Site-spe-
                        technical assistance based and       cific conservation plans            2. Technical Consultations
                        one is financial assistance.          usually refers to a farm or        and Planning Assistance.
                                                             ranch operating unit but           Professional advice is provided
                                                             may also be developed for          to customers to help them
                        NRCS Business
                                                             a group. Conservation plans        make decisions about natural
                        Line: Conservation
                                                             may include program plans          resource management. This
                        Planning and Technical                                                  service may or may not lead
                                                             and whole farm plans devel-
                        Consultations                        oped with automated aids           to a plan or a commitment to
                                                             and GIS systems (Customer          a plan. Planning assistance
                        Conservation Planning and            Service Tool Kit).                 includes some or all of the fol-
                        Technical Consultations                                                 lowing components: identify
                        results in either the transfer     • Area-wide Plan: Area-wide
                                                                                                natural resource problems
                        of data, information, or a           and community based
                                                                                                and opportunities, determine
                        conservation plan that helps         Conservation Plans or Area
                                                                                                objectives, inventory
                        customers protect, and               Conservation Assessments
                                                                                                resources, analyze resource
                                                             integrate social, economic,
                                                                                   APPENDICES       97

                                                                                                         H E A LT H Y E N V I R O N M E N T
data, formulate alternatives,    Product or Services Lines          NRCS Business Line:
evaluate alternatives, select    1. Designs.                        Natural Resources
alternatives, and implement      Designs are prepared               Inventory and Assessment
and evaluate the plan. It also   for engineering and
includes assistance to USDA      management practices that          Natural Resources Inventory
program customers who            meet established technical         and Assessment includes
seek to maintain eligibility     standards and specifications.       the acquisition, development,
with highly erodible land and    The preparation of operation       interpretation, and delivery
wetland conservation compli-     and maintenance guidelines         of natural resource data
ance. Technical assistance is    are an important part of this      and information for natural
also provided to customers       process. This product includes     resource planning, decision
who seek to comply with          the surveys, field layout of        making, and program and
other Federal, State, or local   conservation practices, spot       policy development at
ordinances and environmental     checks, inspection, and as-        multiple scales.
regulations.                     built designs for engineering
                                 and management practices.          Product or Service Lines
Consultations and Planning                                          1. Protocols and Procedures
Assistance includes assistance   2. Follow-up.                      for Gathering and Delivering
to communities, units of         Follow-up is conducted with        Data.
government or Tribes, and the    a client during planning and       Protocols and procedures
planners within those groups     implementation and following       for natural-resource data
who use their own planning       implementation. Guidance           acquisition, development,
process.                         and coordination are provided      analysis, management, and
                                 for implementing the next          delivery provide systematic
NRCS Business Line:              treatment. Operation and           and reliable information
Conservation                     maintenance requirements           for resource management
Implementation                   are reviewed with the client.      decisions. This product and
                                 Follow-up includes more            service line includes:
Conservation                     formal, annual Program Status
Implementation assists           Reviews to assess the status       • Processes for acquiring,
operators and landowners         of contracts, planning needs,        aggregating, archiving, and
in installing conservation       and the function of installed        integrating data. Examples
treatments, management           practices.                           include:
measures, and management                                             • Sample design, data
systems that result in           3. Conservation Compliance
                                 Checks and Reviews.                   collection protocols, and
improved treatment of the                                              systematic data interpre-
resources.                       Mandated reviews ensure
                                 that USDA program                     tation for the National
                                 participants are meeting their        Cooperative Soil Survey
                                 responsibility to protect highly      (NCSS).
                                 erodible land and wetlands.
                   98      APPENDICES

                          • Sample design, data             • Digital elevation data,        product and service line
                            collection protocols, and         faster graphics, streams,      includes conservation
                            statistical estimation            transportation, and digital    effects assessments,
                            techniques for the                ortho-photoquads.              resource condition and
                            National Resources                                               trends assessments (e.g., NRI
                            Inventory (NRI).                • Boundary datasets—             findings on wetlands, land
                                                              watersheds, Soil and           use, and soil erosion trends),
                          • Spatial criteria for              Water Conservation             climate assessments and
                            Common Resource Areas,            District boundaries,           drought monitoring, water
                            Major Land Resource               common resource areas,         supply forecasts, soil survey
                            Areas, soil map unit              RC&D program areas, and        interpretations, etc.
                            delineations, digital             major land resource areas.
                            elevation data, and digital                                      NRCS Business Line:
                            ortho-photoquads.             • Technical datasets for           Natural Resource
                                                            scientists, service providers,   Technology Transfer
                          • Scientific protocols for         and land users. Technical
                            quantifying the effects of       datasets include soil survey     Natural Resource
                            conservation programs           databases (National Soil         Technology Transfer
                            and practices.                  Information System [NASIS]),     evaluates, acquires, develops,
                                                            laboratory data, Official          and transfers conservation
                        • Procedures for “Business-         Soil Survey Descriptions);       tools, techniques, and
                          Case” development. The            NRI database; Snow Survey        standards based on research
                          result is a definition of the      Telemetry (SNOTEL)               and new technologies. This
                          data quality requirements         database; PLANTS database;       includes the production
                          that drive the product.           and Climate Information          and delivery of technical
                                                            data access databases.           tools used in resource
                        2. Databases and Data             • Web-based geospatial data        assessment, conservation
                        Delivery. User-oriented             access portals. The portals      planning, and conservation
                        delivery and maintenance            include Geospatial Data          system installation, including
                        of geospatial datasets and          Gateway, Web Soil Survey,        computer applications,
                        information. This product and       and Soil Data Mart.              standards and guidance
                        service line includes:                                               documents, criteria, and
                                                          3. Assessments and Analyses.       plant materials, and the
                        • Geospatial datasets and         Natural resource data and          development and delivery of
                          products for field office          model results are interpreted      training in the use of NRCS
                          Customer Service Toolkit        and analyzed to inform             tools and methodologies in
                          plug-ins including:             decision makers and facilitate     conservation planning and
                                                          policy development. This           the design of conservation
                                                                                             practices and systems.
                                                                                      APPENDICES        99

                                                                                                             H E A LT H Y E N V I R O N M E N T
Product or Service Lines             they are prepared. There         • Modeling and Information
1. Technology Tools.                 is a FOTG for each local           Systems: Models respond
• Standards: NRCS conserva-          conservation district in the       to agricultural and environ-
   tion practice standards pro-      U.S. Parts of the FOTG are         mental questions and sup-
   vide guidance for applying        automated and Web-based.           port natural resource assess-
   conservation technology on        Technical References are           ment. Examples of products
   the land and set the mini-        scientifically based guidance       and services include Water
   mum level for acceptable          that includes a number of          Supply Forecasting System,
   application of the technol-       handbooks, training guides,        Soil Climate Analysis Net-
   ogy for conservation of           manuals, and technical             work, EPIC (Erosion Produc-
   the affected resource at a         resources. Much of this            tivity-Impact Calculator)
   sustainable use level. NRCS       guidance is available in elec-     and CENTURY (soil organic
   issues national conservation      tronic format. Topics include      matter model).
   practice standards in its Na-     animal husbandry, conser-
   tional Handbook of Conser-        vation engineering, ecologi-
                                                                      2. Training and Certification.
   vation Practices (NHCP).          cal sciences, and resource
                                                                      A training support structure
                                                                      exists to provide technical
• Specifications: Specification                                         training in a formal setting
  documents (job sheets,           • Computer applications:           and in local informal training
  drawings, plans, etc.) es-         These tools support conser-      sessions regarding the use
  tablish the technical details      vation planning and imple-       of new technology, updated
  and workmanship required           mentation and provide land       technology, and practical use
  to install the conservation        users with alternatives for      of technology in the field.
  practice in accordance with        making decisions that will       Certification standards and
  the requirements of the con-       reduce soil erosion, reduce      procedures are developed and
  servation practice standard.       sedimentation, maintain          administered.
                                     soil resources, and enhance
                                     other aspects of environ-        3. Plant Materials.
• Guides and References:
                                     mental quality. Examples of      Development, testing, and
  Guides and References are
                                     these tools include Techni-      transfer of state-of-the-art
  developed as the primary
                                     cal Release 55 (TR-55) for       plant science technology
  scientific reference for NRCS
                                     calculating runoff in built up    helps meet customer
  program implementation.
                                     areas, Nutrient Balance (Nut-    and resource needs
  Technical guides, called
                                     Bal), the Revised Universal      including water and wind
  Field Office Technical Guides
                                     Soil Loss Equation II (RUSLE     erosion reduction, water
  (FOTG) are localized so
                                     II), and the Wind Erosion        management, biomass
  they apply to the specific
                                     Equation (WEQ) program.          technology, control of
  geographic area for which
                                                                      invasive species, and wildlife
                                                                      habitat elements.
                   100     APPENDICES

                         NRCS Business Line:                 or equipment. The program       3. Grants.
                         Financial Assistance                participant submits bills       Grants are offered to establish
                                                             and other documentation         a relationship between
                         Financial Assistance includes       to support a request for        NRCS and a State or local
                         cost share and monetary             payment.                        government or other recipient.
                         incentives through program                                          The principal purpose of the
                                                           • Incentive payments are
                         contracts, easements, or other                                      relationship is the transfer of
                                                             provided as monetary or
                         means to qualified program                                           value to a recipient in order to
                                                             financial assistance to the
                         participants who participate                                        accomplish a public purpose
                                                             participant in an amount
                         in authorized USDA NRCS                                             of support or stimulation
                                                             and at a rate determined
                         conservation programs.                                              authorized by Federal
                                                             appropriate to encourage
                         Financial assistance helps                                          law. Substantial Federal
                                                             the participant to perform a
                         motivate producers to treat                                         involvement is not anticipated.
                                                             land management practice
                         natural resource problems                                           These grants may be funded
                                                             that would not otherwise be
                         and to help sustain natural                                         up to 100 percent by NRCS.
                                                             initiated without program
                         resources.                          assistance.
                                                                                             4. Stewardship Payments.
                         Product or Service Lines          2. Easements.                     Stewardship payments allows
                         1. Cost-share/Incentives.         Easements are offered to           the Agency to direct financial
                         • Cost-share payments are         protect conservation or           assistance to participants
                            made available to reimburse    natural-resource-related          as a way to influence the
                            program participants           interest in land defined and       continued protection and
                            for part of the expense        delineated in a deed whereby      sustainability of natural
                            incurred for installing one    the landowner conveys             resources, which includes soil,
                            or more conservation           rights, title, and/or interests   water, air, plants, and animals.
                            practices that optimize        in a property to the grantee.
                            environmental benefits          However, the landowner
                            while achieving agricultural   retains general ownership and
                            and environmental quality      control of the property.
                            goals. The cost share is
                            usually a percentage of the
                            cost shown in the contract.
                            The participant’s expenses
                            might include money, labor,
United States Department of Agriculture
Natural Resources Conservation Service
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) prohibits discrimination in all its programs and activities on
the basis of race, color, national origin, age, disability, and where applicable, sex, marital status, familial
status, parental status, religion, sexual orientation, genetic information, political beliefs, reprisal, or
because all or a part of an individual’s income is derived from any public assistance program. (Not all
prohibited bases apply to all programs.) Persons with disabilities who require alternative means for com-
munication of program information (Braille, large print, audiotape, etc.) should contact USDA’s TARGET
Center at (202) 720-2600 (voice and TDD). To file a complaint of discrimination write to USDA, Director,
Office of Civil Rights, 1400 Independence Avenue, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20250-9410 or call (800) 795-
3272 (voice) or (202) 720-6382 (TDD). USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.
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