In California, as many as 140 customers signed up for conservation planning assistance during the recent Natural Resources Conservation Service’s (NRCS) Conservation Planning Pilot Project, according to initial project results announced recently by State Conservationist Lincoln E. Burton.

“Planning is the cornerstone of good conservation, and I applaud this effort to return to putting it first in our work with California landowners,” said Burton. “It’s not a contract, it’s a discussion. We discuss the landowner’s needs and goals and how those relate to the capabilities and needs of the resources. It is an art and a science and it is at the heart of good decision making.”

California was one of nine states participating in the conservation planning sign-up, a pilot initiative that emphasized the importance of conservation planning to help farmers and ranchers be better prepared to apply for conservation programs and to comply with federal, state, tribal and local environmental regulations.

Nine California field offices participated in the pilot project. Using a landowner self-assessment process, individuals who wanted technical assistance to develop a conservation plan applied at their local NRCS office during the specified sign-up periods that ranged from Oct. 31 to Dec. 30. All agricultural land was eligible for conservation planning technical assistance, including cropland, orchards, vineyards, pasture and range, woodland and farmsteads.

Provides road map

“A conservation plan provides a road map towards long-term goals,” said Bob Bailey, NRCS district conservationist in Redding. “Developing a Comprehensive conservation plan is also beneficial to landowners who decide to apply for USDA cost-share assistance. With a conservation plan in place, NRCS staff can best assist farmers and ranchers to select the most appropriate conservation programs to meet their goals and objectives.”

By planning before pursuing funding, a number of benefits accrue, helping make everyone’s efforts more effective. The planning project pilot was initiated to reintroduce people to the benefits that conservation planning can have for them, their operation, and the environment.

Field offices in Alturas, Grass Valley, Lancaster, Livermore, Red Bluff, Redding, Tulelake, Ukiah and Woodland participated in the project. There was an average of 18 signups per field office. The Redding and Grass Valley offices had the most with 35 and 28 respectively.

Conservation planning combines the best elements of cooperative conservation to provide new opportunities to improve environmental performance and maintain productivity. The pilot initiative demonstrated how a conservation plan is a critical tool to help farmers and ranchers make wise management and land use decisions.