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) program is designed to enhance districts’ urban agriculture conservation technical assistance activities in developed and developing areas of both urban and rural communities. The Urban Agriculture Conservation Grant Initiative helps advance conservation in developed or developing areas. To date, NACD and NRCS have awarded $5 million to 102 conservation districts.

Conservation District Map Placeholder
Conservation District Map
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Urban 16-20 Combined Overlay

Conservation districts that received grants in 2020 are indicated on the map above in white; conservation districts who received funding in 2020 and in previous rounds of funding are indicated in blue; and conservation districts who received funding only in previous years of grants are indicated in black.


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.

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


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.

The members of NACD’s Urban and Community RPG are: Chair Ron Rohall (PA), Vice Chair Nancy Carter (NC), Frank Richardson (MD), John Peterson (VA), Monte Osterman (WI), Larry Wright (OK), Tim Fowler (NE), Karen Berry (CO), Paul Williams (CA), Etta Reed (OH), Stu Trefry (WA), Vicki Carter (NCDEA-WA), Laura Johnson (NASCA-WA), Ann English (NRCS-SC) and Ray Cywinski (NRPC-NJ).

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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