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.

Since 2016, NACD and NRCS have awarded $5.6 million to conservation districts for 122 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 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.

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

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], 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.


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 (Vacant), 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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