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Resource Conservation and Development (RC&D)

Providing technical assistance to local communities to stimulate economies and protect natural resources

Program Basics
The Resource Conservation and Development (RC&D) program provides technical assistance to local communities through designated USDA areas led by RC&D Councils. The purpose of the program is to accelerate the conservation, development and use of natural resources while improving the general level of economic activity and standard of living in communities across the nation. RC&D Councils coordinate conservation and rural development assistance available from USDA, other federal, state, and local government and nongovernmental sources.

Central to RC&D is the idea that local people know what is best for their communities. The RC&D Councils (volunteers representing Tribes, public and private sector sponsors, and other local organizations) undertake community driven actions that are strategically focused on regional resource conservation and economic viability.

To date, 375 areas across the United States, Guam, American Samoa, Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and Virgin Islands have been designated by the Secretary of Agriculture as RC&D areas. RC&D Councils, as nonprofit organizations, serve more than 85 percent of U.S. counties and more than 77 percent of the United States.

The USDA, through the Natural Resources Conservation Service, provides technical assistance in the form of a local staff person (an "RC&D coordinator") to support each multi-county RC&D area. The RC&D Council identifies the environmental, economic, and social needs of that area. Goals, objectives, strategies and the resources needed are documented in a five-year area plan. The RC&D coordinator serves the council by helping with project design and getting projects underway by assisting the council to locate the necessary resources. Resources may include technical or financial assistance from other USDA agencies, state or local governments, local conservation districts, foundations, or private industry.

RC&D activities as outlined in the council's 5-year strategic "area plan" address land conservation, water management, community development, and land management issues. These activities are translated into projects that include:

Resource base protection projects for soil erosion control, noxious plant and pest control, streambank improvement, preservation of prime land, and mined land reclamation; and natural resource studies.

Energy projects for conservation of energy and alternative sources of energy such as methane capture, municipal waste, biomass or wind power.

Fish and wildlife projects for the protection, improvement, or development of habitat.

Waste management and utilization projects for the efficient and environmentally sound disposal of animal waste; development or improvement of a landfill; waste collection; solid waste disposal; composting and recycling of glass, metals, paper, wood, and furniture.

Community improvement projects that improve community infrastructure including studies on zoning, facilities or services needed, and project implementation. Projects include constructing and improving public trails; community centers and other old community buildings; constructing, improving or repairing subsidized housing; improving roads and parks; and, installing dry fire hydrants.

Forestry projects improve forested areas through education on safety or harvesting techniques; developing or expanding forest related industries; fire protection; developing wood waste energy sources; developing or improving value added forestry related products; studies such as forest inventories, species, or forest products; and, improving rural road infrastructure with timber bridges.

Economic development projects include marketing and producer surveys or feasibility studies; assisting with grants, loans, or other financing; assisting in the formation or expansion of agriculture or natural resource related businesses, or other businesses involved with value-added products. Projects can include improvement of agricultural production. Marketing and merchandising projects result in cooperatives or associations; business or marketing plans; and advertising and promotional materials.

Water projects improve surface and groundwater quality and quantity. Many projects deal with pollution control and dispersing water. Projects include watershed management; construction or rehabilitation of irrigation, flood control systems; wastewater treatment; and, efficient use of aquifers.

Recreation and tourism projects include feasibility studies and the creation or improvement of water-based recreational areas for swimming, boating, and canoeing, and boat launch sites; establishment or improvement of non water-based recreational areas such golf courses, rodeo arenas, trails, or ball parks; historic site preservation.

Application and Financial Information
Written applications must be in the form outlined in the NRCS Conservation Programs Manual (CPM-440, Part 513 - National Resource Conservation and Development). This can be found at Details of the procedure are also available from state and field offices of NRCS. Designation of a new RC&D area depends on the level of appropriations for the program.

Eligibility, Uses, and Restrictions
Eligible applicants are Councils with representation from state and local governments, Tribes, and nonprofit organizations with authority to plan or carry out activities relating to resource use and development in multijurisdictional areas working through designated RC&D Councils.


To find out about RC&D activities in your area, contact your local NRCS office. Check your telephone directory under U.S. Government, Department of Agriculture.

Terry D'Addio
Team Leader & National RC&D Program Manager
Phone: 202/720-0557

Last Updated January 26, 2010

Please note: Building Sustainable Farms, Ranches and Communities is also available for download in PDF format.

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