1.   Identify Problems and Opportunities

Everyone needs a reason to plan. Planning can start with a problem, an opportunity, shared concerns, or a perceived threat. Initial opportunities and problems are first identified based on readily available information provided by the client(s). There may be information available through the Conservation Districts or through a larger-scale conservation plan.

2.   Determine Objectives

The stakeholders identify their objectives. A conservationist guides the process so that it includes both the stakeholder needs and values and the resource uses and on-site and off-site ecological protection. Objectives may need to be revised and modified as new information is learned later in the inventory and analysis stages. Objectives may not be finalized until Step 4 of the planning process.

3.   Inventory Resources


Appropriate natural resource, economic and social information for the planning area is collected. The information will be used to further define the problems and opportunities. It will also be used throughout the entire process to define alternatives and to evaluate the plan. It is important that as much information as possible can be collected so that the plan will fit both the needs of the landowner and the natural resources.

4.   Analyze Resource Data

Study the resource data and clearly define existing conditions for all of the natural resources, including limitations and potential for the desired use. This step is crucial to developing plans that will work for a landowner and their land. It also provides a clear understanding of the baseline conditions will help to judge how effective a project is after it has been put into place.

5.   Formulate Alternatives

Achieve the goals for the land, by solving all identified problems, taking advantage of opportunities, and meeting the social, economic, and environmental needs of the planning project.


6.   Evaluate Alternatives

Determine the effectiveness in addressing the client’s problems, opportunities and objectives. Attention must be given to those ecological values protected by law or executive order.


7.   Make Decisions

The landowner chooses which project or plan will work best for their situation. The planner prepares the documentation. In the case of an area-wide plan, public review and comment are obtained before a decision is reached.

8.   Implement the Plan

Technical assistance is provided to help with the installation of adequate and properly-designed conservation practices. At this point in NRCS conservation planning, conservation engineers step in and make designs based on our technical standards.

9.   Evaluate the Plan

Conservation planning is an ongoing process that continues long after the implementation of a conservation practice. By evaluating the effectiveness of a conservation plan or a practice within a plan, stakeholders can decide whether to continue with other aspects of an overall area-wide plan.