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 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

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. To date, NACD and NRCS have awarded $5.6 million to 122 conservation districts. 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 through the use of 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 below of all the recipients to date.


On July 12, 2016, NACD President Lee McDaniel and NRCS Chief Jason Weller announced the 42 conservation districts in 25 states awarded through this initiative to help increase technical assistance capacity for urban agriculture conservation projects.

In 2017, this program assisted 19 districts in 14 states with implementing projects supporting local food production, opportunities for education and stewardship, and natural resources protection strategies.

In Feb. 2019, NACD and NRCS again partnered to increase technical capacity nationwide, providing funding to 20 conservation districts across 14 states (indicated on the map with orange markers).

At the 74th Annual Meeting in Las Vegas, NACD announced the fourth round of funding for 21 conservation districts across 13 states. For the first time in 2020, grantees who received funding in earlier rounds were able to apply for funding for new projects.

NACD and NRCS partnered for the fifth round of funding in 2021, awarding an additional 20 grants in 14 states.

Pending additional funding from NRCS, the program typically opens for applications each fall. See additional grantee resources below to learn more about the program, and contact Ariel Rivers with any additional questions.

To learn more about this initiative, contact NACD Pacific Region Representative Ariel Rivers, Ph.D.


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. 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 Alex Schmidt (IA), Vice 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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