Conservation planning essential for success

Kendall Smith/For Craig Press

One of our founding fathers, Ben Franklin, once said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” This is true for land managers, as well. The success of a land manager can be greatly improved with a conservation plan. A conservation plan is a roadmap to achieve the goals and objectives for each land manager. Whether a land manager’s plan includes the development of more recreational opportunities, a reduction in production cost, increase in stocking rate, the Natural Resources Conservation Service can develop a custom conservation plan to meet your goals.

The NRCS uses a nine-step process to develop and complete a conservation plan. These steps include the following.

  • Identify problems and opportunities.
  • Determine objectives.
  • Inventory resources.
  • Analyze resource date.
  • Formulate alternatives
  • Evaluate alternatives.
  • Make decisions.
  • Implement the plan.
  • Evaluate the plan.

Many of these steps are done on a daily basis, but one key component is often overlooked. That is step three: inventorying the resources available. In many instances, a complete resources inventory can mean the difference between effectively solving a problem or ineffective expenditures of time and money.

The resource inventory may include identifying key forage plants and amounts with key grazing sites, current irrigation system, locating areas that lack water, conducting habitat evaluations for sage grouse, identifying available ranching/farming equipment and calculating grazable acres (which is based on distance from water, terrain, brush canopy and type of grazing animals present). The resource concerns that are identified will provide land managers the greatest potential to meet their established goals and objectives. Step nine — evaluating the plan — is essential to making the decisions in the future by seeing what worked, then modifying the plan to obtain the desired results. This may start your planning cycle over again in many situations.

A conservation plan through the NRCS can help land managers comply with environmental regulations, qualify for various USDA financial assistance programs and receive on-site technical assistance to improve land. A conservation plan from the NRCS includes an aerial map of the farm/ranch, a soils map and soils description, a resource inventory, a list of resource concerns with potential treatment options, the location and schedule for each treatment and detailed management practices with alternatives that will help maintain and improve the health and sustainability of your land. The NRCS can formulate a grazing plan or develop a wildlife habitat management plan.

For more information, call the Craig NRCS field office at 970-329-3156, or stop by the office, located at 145 Commerce St. Service locations and program information can be found on the CO NRCS website at

Kendall Smith is Natural Resource Conservation Service district conservationist.

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