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Addressing Habitat Conservation

Natural Resources Conservation Service

Wendell Gilgert, NRCS, and Geoffrey Geupel, PRBO


The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), formerly known as the Soil Conservation Service, was originally formed to work with private landowners to prevent soil erosion caused by poor agricultural practices (and another dust bowl such as the one that plagued the country in the 1930s) .

In 1994, the NRCS leadership recognized that soil conservation was closely linked to habitat conservation. Accordingly, NRCS expanded its vision to conserve not only soil but also water, air, and plant and animal resources—wildlife and its habitat.

With a long history of working successfully with private landowners, and with "Farm Bill" financial assistance, NRCS biologists and conservationists began to work more ambitiously with landowners to restore and enhance habitat on private lands.

More recently, public agencies with mandates to conserve wildlife populations, the California Department of Fish and Game and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service among them, have followed NRCS's lead and undertaken similar programs. To conserve and enhance critical habitat for fish and wildlife, they provide working landowners with technical and financial assistance.

These programs now are an integral component of the agencies' missions, as the habitat needs of declining and endangered species cannot be met solely on existing public lands.