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Feb. 11, 2021, Temple, Texas - Each year, from February through March, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) county field office staff and their conservation partners at soil and water conservation districts host Local Working Group meetings across Texas. These meetings provide a forum to outline future conservation needs, identify conservation resource concerns and set priorities for a given resource area.

“These Local Working Group meetings serve as a conservation needs assessment forum and are a valuable part of the NRCS planning process,” said NRCS Texas State Conservationist Kristy Oates. “The meetings provide an opportunity for local landowners and managers to be part of a collaborative effort to improve natural resources within their county. They are based on the principle that community stakeholders are best suited to deal with local resource issues.”

Participants help by:

· identifying where the best investments can be made to address natural resource problems,

· sharing the work that has already been done in the county, and

· sharing their vision for what the county will look like when these natural resource concerns have been addressed.

This locally led, grassroots planning effort is the hallmark of NRCS and local soil and water conservation districts. The listening sessions are open to the public and provide time for participants to share their perspectives on local priorities NRCS offers through technical assistance and through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) funding. A complete list of Local Working Group meetings, times and locations can be found on the NRCS Texas website.

Strategic approach to conservation

This local information gathering process is part of NRCS’ strategic approach to conservation. NRCS uses Local Working Group meetings to gather input from landowners, agency partners and other stakeholders to identify and prioritize natural resource concerns in the community. The information collected is provided to the NRCS state conservationist and the State Technical Committee, which is made up of partners at all levels of government, organizations, research institutions, nonprofits, and landowners to concentrate conservation efforts and yield measurable results.

Based on the input received, NRCS works with partners to develop local strategies to help agricultural producers in in each county implement conservation practices that address related resource concerns. Local Working Group meetings provide an opportunity to check in on current projects, ensure projects are meeting their goals and adjust when necessary.

Going virtual via online forums

NRCS and soil and water conservation districts are conducting their 2021 meetings to maintain state COVID social distancing and safety requirements. Many counties will hold their meetings via Zoom or MS Teams forums online, which provides even greater opportunities for local farmers and ranchers to join a meeting. Additionally, producers can receive ongoing information on conservation news, events, and opportunities by signing up for email updates.

For more information, visit the NRCS Texas website at www.tx.nrcs.usda.gov/.

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