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America's Northern Plains

An Overview and Assessment of Natural Resources

Appendix A. Related Programs

NRCS Programs

Conservation Technical Assistance (Soil and Water Conservation). Authorized by the Soil Conservation and Domestic Allotment Act of 1936, as amended, PL 74-46. Services include providing technical assistance to individuals, groups, and state and local governments in order to inventory natural resources and to plan and apply conservation practices needed to protect and enhance those resources.

Water Quality Programs. Authorized by the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (Clean Water Act) Section 208, Rural Clean Water Program, Section 319, Nonpoint Source Pollution Control Program (Environmental Protection Agency), and Section 404, Permits for Dredge and Fill (Corps of Engineers). NRCS helps decision makers plan, design, and install many practices that conserve water or improve water quality and helps farmers irrigate efficiently with improved nutrient and pesticide management.

Forestry Incentive Program(FIP). Authorized by the Cooperative Forestry Assistance Act of 1978, PL 95313; amended by Food, Agriculture, Conservation, and Trade Act of 1990, PL 101-624. FIP's purpose is to increase the nation's supply of timber products, emphasizing increasing future timber supplies, continuing sustained yield, improving multipurpose management, and assessing the cost-effectiveness of forest improvement practices on privately owned, nonindustrial forest lands.

Colorado River Basin Salinity Control Program. Authorized by the Colorado River Basin Salinity Control Act, PL 93-320; amended by PL 98-569. NRCS works with decision makers to reduce salinity, primarily by improving irrigation water management on farms within the Colorado River basin. NRCS helps landowners install practices such as land leveling, concrete-based irrigation ditches, and structures for water control and measurement.

Soil Survey Program. Authorized by PL 74-46 and PL 89-560. NRCS names and classifies the soils according to a national system and provides information on the potential and limitations of the soils for various uses. NRCS makes and publishes soil surveys which include maps and physical and chemical characteristics of the soils.

Snow Surveys and Water Supply Forecasting Program. Authorized by PL 74-46. In the Western United States, most of the available water for agriculture, domestic use, industry, and power comes from snow that falls in the mountains. NRCS and cooperating agencies collect data on demand from over 500 automated sites and 1,600 manually read snow courses. They determine the depth and the water equivalent of the snowpack and estimate the amount of runoff from the mountain watersheds. This information is made available to anyone needing water supply forecasts.

Plant Materials Program. Authorized by PL 74-46. Native plants are collected and propagated at one of 13 plant materials centers where they are rigorously tested against the criteria established to meet existing conservation needs. The result is to provide native plants that can help solve natural resource problems.

River Basin Surveys and Investigations Program. Authorized by the Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Act, PL 83-566. NRCS directs river basin planning, surveys, and investigations at the request of cooperating federal and state agencies. River basin studies identify water and land resource problems, analyze the economic base and environmental setting, and suggest alternative plans for solving problems and improving the economy and environment.

Small Watershed Program. Authorized by the Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Act, PL 83566, and subsequent amendments. NRCS administers watershed projects to help urban and rural communities protect, improve, and develop the water and land resources in watersheds of up to 250,000 acres. Projects can be multipurpose for recreation, flood control, reduced soil erosion and sedimentation, and industrial needs. NRCS provides technical help in installing PL-566 project measures, pays the full cost of construction for flood prevention, and shares the cost for other purposes. State agencies and qualified local groups can sponsor a watershed project.

Emergency Watershed Protection Program. Authorized by section 216-PL 81-516, Section 403 of Title IV of the Agricultural Credit Act of 1978, and Emergency Conservation Program, PL 95-334. NRCS provides technical and financial assistance whenever fire, flood, or other natural disaster causes sudden damage in a watershed. To safeguard lives and property, as authorized by the Secretary of Agriculture, NRCS undertakes emergency measures to retard runoff and reduce soil erosion and sedimentation.

Great Plains Conservation Program (GPCP). Authorized by the Soil Conservation and Domestic Allotment Act of 1936, as amended, and the Great Plains Act of 1956 and subsequent amendments. NRCS provides technical and financial help to landowners in 556 designated counties in 10 states to protect the drought-prone Great Plains against wind erosion. Technical assistance and cost sharing under 3- to 10-year contracts is provided to farmers and ranchers installing permanent conservation practices on lands they own, or have long term control.

National Resources Inventory Program (NRI). Authorized by the Rural Development Act of 1972 and the Soil and Water Resources Conservation Act of 1977. Congress mandates that the NRI be conducted every 5 years to allow Congress, federal agencies, and others to evaluate existing programs, propose new programs, and allocate USDA financial and technical assistance to address priority natural resource concerns.

Resource Conservation and Development Program (RC&D). Authorized by PL 97-98. RC&D is designed to enhance natural resource development and environmental protection in multicounty areas. NRCS is responsible for administering this program to help local sponsors plan and carry out an RC&D area program, with help from state and other federal agencies.

Water Bank Program (WB). Authorized by the Water Bank Act, PL 91-559, and PL 96-182. This program is designed to preserve, restore, and improve wetlands as breeding and resting areas for migratory waterfowl. NRCS provides technical assistance in preparing and applying a 10-year contract for the landowner or operator in important waterfowl areas.

Wetlands Reserve Program (Wetland Reserve Program). Authorized by the Food Security Act of 1985, Title XII, amended by the Food, Agriculture, Conservation and Trade Act of 1990, Title XIV, and PL 101-624, amended by the Budget Reconciliation Act of 1993. The program objectives for Wetland Reserve Program are to purchase easements from willing owners of eligible land, to assist eligible land owners to restore the hydrologic conditions of inundation of saturation of the soil, native vegetation, and natural values of agricultural wetlands, and to help achieve the national goal of no net loss of wetlands and improve the general environment.

Other Programs that NRCS Supports

Agricultural Conservation Program (ACP). Authorized in the Soil Conservation and Domestic Allotment Act of 1936, PL 74-46, and PL 81-146. NRCS provides technical assistance to Farm Service Agency ACP applicants. ACP is a cost sharing program that defrays the costs of installing enduring conservation practices on privately owned lands.

Emergency Conservation Measures Program (ECP). Authorized in PL 85-58. NRCS provides technical assistance to Farm Service Agency ECP applicants. ECP is a cost sharing program that offsets costs incurred by farmers and ranchers to restore conservation practices damaged by natural disasters.

Conservation Reserve Program (Conservation Reserve Program). Authorized by the Food Security Act of 1985, Title XII, the Food, Agriculture, Conservation and Trade Act of 1990, Title XIV, and PL 101-624, amended by the Budget Reconciliation Act of 1993. NRCS provides technical support to Conservation Reserve Program applicants in determining eligibility and developing conservation plans on accepted contracts. The Farm Service Agency administers the program.

State Level Mutual Agreements

NRCS also supports programs through various state level mutual agreements. Table 5 lists those agreements.

Table 5. State Level Mutual Agreements between NRCS and Other Organizations
Agreement Parties and Topic
Memorandum of Understanding and Supplement with conservation districts' Resource Conservation and Development Councils, for staff support and project support. PL 46 Agriculture and Food Act of 1981
MT,WY Agreements with Native American Tribes for technical assistance or training Native American individuals. PL 46, Civil Rights Act of 1987
CO, MT, WY, NE, KS Agreements with other federal, state, and local entities that result in funding for staff or staff exchanges for technical assistance or funding for "joint venture" employees or projects. PL 46
CO, MT Agreement with National Park Service for development of plant materials for National Parks. PL 46
CO Agreement that transfers money to four conservation districts for administration of Colorado River Salinity Control Program contracts. PL 46
CO Joint effort with U.S. Forest Service to fund resource conservation development projects in Denver. PL 46
CO Three agreements with conservation districts to pilot ecosystem based assistance that will result in broad area planning on a local level led by local steering committees. PL 46
WY, CO, SD, ND, NE, MT, KS Agreements with conservation districts, project sponsors, state government and other federal agencies that relate to water management, snow surveys and other water quantity measurements, water quality, and water quality improvements. PL 46
SD, MT Agreements with conservation districts, RC & D Councils, and private associations related to improving grazing land resources. PL 46
SD Agreements with four conservation districts to help enter customer data into computer systems. PL 46, Food Security Act of 1985
ND, CO, SD, MT, KS Agreements with county government and others related to funding soil survey mapping and soil services. PL 46
SD, NE, MT, KS Agreements with conservation districts, state agencies, universities, and other federal agencies relating to conservation planning and application of conservation practices, including plant materials development. PL 46

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