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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.

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 natural resource issues across the nation through various forms of urban and community conservation. Many districts provide technical support on urban soil health, erosion and sediment control, planting and managing urban trees and forests, mitigating invasive species, stormwater management, small acreage farming and more. 

Explore some of the many ways conservation districts are involved in urban and community conservation, below.

NACD Urban Agriculture Conservation Grant Initiative


The NACD Urban Agriculture Conservation (UAC) Grant Initiative is designed to enhance districts’ urban agriculture conservation technical assistance activities in developed and developing areas of both urban and rural communities. 

Since 2016, NACD and NRCS have awarded $6.5 million to conservation districts for 153 different projects. Through these grants, conservation districts increased their capacity related to urban technical assistance and small-scale conservation, while addressing community needs in both rural and urban contexts. 

Grantees have successfully partnered with a multitude of organizations to support community farming and gardening programs, expanded outreach capacities to current and underrepresented clients, planned operations to extend growing seasons using hoop houses and other practices, remediated poor-yielding agricultural sites, and contributed to many other natural resource conservation efforts. 

Each conservation district is also proud to share the outcomes and ongoing activities of their projects; take a tour in the story map below of all the recipients to date. 

Please scroll below the map to learn more about past grant opportunities, and any announcements about the next round of funding. 

To learn more about this initiative, contact NACD Director of Membership Engagement, Ariel Rivers, Ph.D. 

Each UAC grantee is highlighted in the story map above, with the full list of districts by state linked below. Districts who have already received two UAC grants are not eligible to reapply. 

Final reports for each year provide a summary of grantee activities, as well as lessons learned. 

Additional information from past grantees is also available in the links below:

The FY 2022 application period for the UAC grants closed on January 31, 2022, and all program funds have been awarded for this fiscal year.

Only conservation districts as defined by state statute are eligible to apply for these grants. If NACD is able to continue this program, the next round of funding will open in Fall of 2023.

Interested conservation districts may review the FY 2022 request for proposals (RFP) linked below for example information about applicable projects, eligibility, and full application instructions. Please read the instructions carefully, districts who do not adhere to the application instructions and submit all required documents will not be considered for funding. The application instructions are also provided as a word document so districts may use that document as a template when drafting their application materials.

Districts should read the frequently asked questions (FAQs) and the reporting instructions, below, before applying. Interested applicants are also encouraged to review past grantee projects described in the story map and other materials linked above. Please also see a recorded information session about the FY 2022 grants for program expectations and additional information.

If you still have questions after reviewing the RFP, FAQs, and reporting instructions, please contact Ariel Rivers, PhD, ariel-rivers[at]nacdnet.org, NACD’s staff lead on urban conservation programs.


Each UAC grantee is highlighted in the story map above, with the full list of districts by state linked below. Districts who have already received two UAC grants are not eligible to reapply.

Final reports for each year provide a summary of grantee activities, as well as lessons learned.

Webinars


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.

Resources


Backyard Conservation: Lawns and the Environment ProgramA Collaboration with the Scotts Miracle Grow Foundation

Many conservation districts (CDs) are increasingly expanding their target audiences to include urban and suburban homeowners, providing many opportunities to conduct outreach and provide technical assistance in backyard and smaller-scale settings.  

In 2018, NACD first partnered with the Ohio Federation of Soil and Water Conservation Districts, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, and The Scotts Miracle-Gro Foundation to provide educational materials specifically focused on a key aspect of backyard conservation, Lawn Care Practices. These materials provide recommendations on best management practices (BMPs) related to lawns for landowners—for example, proper mowing, grass clipping, and leaf management—while also providing critical information to communities that are required to conduct outreach to maintain their National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) stormwater permit.  

While lawn maintenance is an important issue for many homeowners, many CDs also provide a variety of other types of technical assistance, from how to plan native plant gardens to adapting their backyards into a locally certified conservation space.  

We provide several educational materials that may be helpful to conservation districts supporting Backyard Conservation, including the original Lawn Care materials.  

Districts are also encouraged to review the archive of NACD’s urban and community monthly webinars, which provide many examples of conservation district activities related to stormwater management, water quality and conservation, urban biodiversity, and other activities.  

As resources for conservation districts, NACD generated a PowerPoint presentation on Lawn Care Practices to promote soil and water conservation, along with a brochure and a flyer describing lawn care best management practices. We include speaker notes for the presentation, and each resource may be used in a districts’ training and outreach programs.

Power Point Presentation District personnel can incorporate this presentation into their training and outreach programs and bring the information to life by using these speaker notes.

Narrative Presentation – District personnel may also use this 20-minute, narrated presentation for any outreach. The password to access this file is “backyard.”

BrochureEasily printed and copied, this is a simple take-home reference that highlights the key components of the presentation. It can also be handed out in the circumstances where the presentation cannot be provided (booths, conferences, etc). The brochure reinforces the best practices and highlights how lawns and gardens and simple behaviors can help our water quality improvement efforts. 

FlyerThis one-page take-home reference is available in both color and black and white for district use at various outreach events.

 

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. If you’re interested in joining the RPG, contact NACD Pacific Region Representative Ariel Rivers, Ph.D.

The RPG is staffed by NACD Pacific Region Representative Ariel Rivers and members include: Chair Ron Rohall (PA), Nancy Carter (NC-At Large), Frank Richardson (MD-Northeast), John Peterson (VA-Southeast), Monte Osterman (WI-North Central), Larry Wright (OK-South Central), Tim Fowler (NE-Northern Plains), Karen Berry (CO-Southwest), Rick Gomez (Pacific), Etta Reed (OH-At Large), Stu Trefry (WA-At Large), Joseph Heller (At Large), Cassius Spears (At Large), Phil Campbell (At Large), Sam Steiner (At Large); and NRPC Liaison Joe Lomax, NCDEA Advisors Vicki Carter (WA) and Dru Harrison, NASCA Advisor Laura Johnson (WA), and NRCS Advisor Ann English (SC).

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