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The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is a federal agency that works hand-in-hand with the people of Rhode Island to improve and protect their soil, water and other natural resources. For decades, private landowners have voluntarily worked with NRCS specialists to prevent erosion, improve water quality and promote sustainable agriculture.

NRCS employs soil conservationists, soil scientists, agronomists, biologists, engineers, geologists and resource planners. These experts help landowners develop conservation plans, create and restore wetlands, restore and manage other natural ecosystems as well as advise on storm water remediation, nutrient and animal waste management and watershed planning.

NRCS, formerly called the Soil Conservation Service, was initially focused on preventing soil erosion on America's farmland. Over the years Americans have become concerned with a broader array of natural resource issues. In response, NRCS has broadened its technical services in order to provide science-based solutions to address America's ever-changing environmental concerns. While farmers remain the primary client of NRCS, the agency also provides technical assistance to city planners, watershed groups, state and local governments, civic organizations and individual homeowners.

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Conservation Technical Assistance

The Natural Resources Conservation Service provides conservation planning and technical assistance to individuals, groups and units of government. These clients develop and implement conservation plans to protect, conserve and enhance their natural resources.

When providing assistance, NRCS focuses on the sound use and management of soil, water, air, plant and animal resources. NRCS helps clients manage their resources in a way that prevents resource degradation, ensures sustainability, allows for productivity and respects the client's needs. Conservation planning can make improvements to livestock operations, crop production, soil quality, water quality, hay land, forestland and wildlife habitats. The process also integrates ecological and economic considerations in order to address private and public concerns.

The success of conservation planning depends upon the voluntary participation of clients. The planning process used by NRCS is based on the premise that clients will make and implement sound decisions if they understand their resources, natural resource problems and opportunities as well as the effects of their decisions.

The Conservation Partnership

Map of RI Conservation DistrictsWhen the conservation pioneers created the Natural Resources Conservation Service it put in place a Federal, State, and Local government partnership for delivering conservation assistance to the landowners. They had concluded that the Federal agency could best deliver technical and financial assistance to the land owners while State governments and local conservation districts could more effectively connect with the individual landowners and set local pursuits for action.

In Rhode Island the partnership includes the Rhode Island Conservation Districts, the Rhode Island State Conservation Committee and the Natural Resources Conservation Service. A conservation district is a subdivision of local government, established under state law to carry out programs for the conservation and wise management of soil, water, and related resources.

 There are three conservation districts in Rhode Island. The Eastern Rhode Island Conservation District consists of Bristol and Newport Counties; the Northern Rhode Island Conservation District consists of Providence County; and the Southern Rhode Island Conservation District consists of Kent and Washington Counties.  Each district is governed by a board of directors elected  and appointed citizens who volunteer their time and leadership to the conservation effort.

Conservation district directors work hand-in-hand with the Natural Resources Conservation Service to deliver technical assistance to the people of Rhode Island. NRCS provides technical services while the districts provide representation from the local community and the leadership to set priorities for conservation activities and develop new programs.

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