Urban and Community

When conservation districts were first established in the Dust Bowl era, they mostly worked with farmers, ranchers and forest owners. But landscapes have changed, and districts have adapted.
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Like other types of landscapes, urban and suburban communities face natural resource challenges. Water quality and quantity, air quality, non-native species, habitat degradation and reductions in open space all affect land-use management in developed and developing areas.

Districts are helping to address these natural resource issues across the nation. Past research has shown that close to 70 percent of the nation’s conservation districts are involved in some form of urban and community conservation. These include soil interpretation-protection, urban erosion and sediment control, tree planting and management, invasive species management, stormwater management, small acreage farming and more.

NACD Urban Agriculture Conservation Grant Initiative

On Nov. 13, 2018, NACD announced it will once again be partnering with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to award up to $50,000 in urban agriculture technical assistance funding to 18 districts across the nation in 2019.

The program is designed to enhance districts’ urban agriculture conservation technical assistance activities in developed and developing areas of both urban and rural communities. NACD is accepting project proposals as directed in the above RFP through Dec. 31, 2018. Please contact NACD Senior Advisor Debra Bogar in Littleton, Colo., at or 303-988-1893 with questions.


NACD has awarded 61 grants to conservation districts cumulatively through the program; 42 in 2016 (indicated by black circles) and 19 in 2017 (indicated by gold circles).

The Urban Agriculture Conservation Grant Initiative is one way NACD is helping members advance conservation in developed or developing areas.

In 2017, this program assisted 19 districts in 14 states with implementing projects that support local food production, provide opportunities for education and stewardship, and protect natural resources.

Project descriptions for the 2017 funded projects are available on NACD’s website and  as a downloadable PDF. Click here to download a press release template for the 2017 urban agriculture conservation grant recipients.

The 19 urban conservation projects selected for the 2017 funding cycle were, by state: Sebastian County CD, Ark.; Inland Empire RCD, Calif.; New Castle CD, Del.; Fulton County SWCD, Ga.; Johnson County SWCD, Iowa; Douglas County CD, Kan.; Prince George’s SCD, Md.; Genesee CD, Mich.; Upper Big Blue NRD, Neb.; Nevada Tahoe CD, Nev.; Ocean County SCD, N.J.; Ciudad SWCD, N.M.; San Juan SWCD, N.M.; Colonial SWCD, Va.; Lord Fairfax SWCD, Va.; Cascadia CD, Wash.; Grant CD, Wash.; Kitsap CD, Wash.; Snohomish CD, Wash.

In 2016, this initiative helped increase technical assistance capacity for urban agriculture conservation projects in 42 conservation districts in 25 states. The awardees were announced at NACD’s Summer Meeting on July 12, 2016 by NACD President Lee McDaniel and NRCS Chief Jason Weller.

To read descriptions for each of the proposals that received funding in the 2016 cycle, go here. To download a complete list of the 2016 proposal descriptions in PDF form, click here. A 93-page final report was produced in May 2018 describing future outcomes and lessons learned. To learn more about this initiative, check out the summer 2016 edition of The Resource or contact NACD Senior Advisor Deb Bogar.


The third Thursday of every month, NACD features conservation districts and their urban and suburban conservation work through interactive webinars. The presentations are sponsored by The Scotts Miracle-Gro Company and archived by year on NACD’s webinar page.


Backyard Conservation: Lawns and the Environment Program – This outreach and education program was developed by the Ohio Federation of Soil and Water Conservation Districts, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and The Scotts Miracle-Gro Company to help conservation districts team-up with urban and suburban property owners to improve soil and water quality. Among the recommended best management practices (BMPs) for landowners are proper mowing techniques and improved grass clipping and leaf management. The program also provides critical information to communities that need to meet National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Phase II outreach requirements.

Inventory of Conservation Districts’ Urban and Community Conservation Activities – This document details the resources and tools districts are using as they work with homeowners, municipalities and developers to put conservation on the ground in urban or urbanizing areas. Topics addressed include soil management, water quality and small acreage/farmland protection.

New Landowners Manual – This manual is a great resource for current and prospective landowners to have on hand. It communicates solutions to a number of land management issues and was compiled by NACD member districts and partners.

NACD Urban and Community Resource Policy Group

The Urban and Community Resource Policy Group (RPG) is charged with providing guidance to NACD leaders on how best to increase district visibility in urban and developing communities; strengthen district capabilities and funding; and showcase districts’ work to address resource issues specific to urban and urbanizing communities. The RPG meets monthly via teleconference and currently has one vacancy in the South Central region. If you’re interested in joining the RPG, contact Senior Advisor Deb Bogar.

The members of NACD’s Urban and Community RPG are: Chair Ron Rohall of Pennsylvania, Vice Chair John Peterson of Virginia, Monte Osterman of Wisconsin, Tim Fowler of Nebraska, Karen Berry of Colorado, Mark Saelens of Oregon, Etta Reed of Ohio, Jeri Trebelcock of Wyoming, NCDEA representative Cliff Lundin of New Jersey, and NASCA representative Stu Trefry of Washington.

One way to keep up with the Urban and Community RPG is to “like” their Facebook page. Through the RPG’s presence on Facebook, conservation districts and partners are able to share information and ideas, build relationships, and gain recognition for their work.

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