About RC&D

The purpose of the Resource Conservation and Development (RC&D) program is to accelerate the conservation, development and utilization of natural resources, improve the general level of economic activity, and to enhance the environment and standard of living in designated RC&D areas. It improves the capability of State, tribal and local units of government and local nonprofit organizations in rural areas to plan, develop and carry out programs for resource conservation and development. The program also establishes or improves coordination systems in rural areas. Current program objectives focus on improvement of quality of life achieved through natural resources conservation and community development which leads to sustainable communities, prudent use (development), and the management and conservation of natural resources. RC&D areas are locally sponsored areas designated by the Secretary of Agriculture for RC&D technical and financial assistance program funds.

The RC&D program is available in all 50 states, the Caribbean (Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands), and the Pacific Basin (Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and American Samoa). Currently, 375 RC&D areas, designated by the Secretary of Agriculture, serve 2,709 counties across the Nation. The 1990 Food, Agriculture,
Conservation and Trade Act limited assistance to not more than 450 active designated areas. Designated areas now serve approximately 85
percent of U.S. counties and 80 percent of the U.S. population. To participate, locally formed RC&D councils submit an application for
designation through their NRCS State Conservationist to the Secretary of
Agriculture.The RC&D program pulls together people, communities, Indian tribes, and grassroots groups that unite in shared purpose and pool resources to get work done. Volunteers are committed to revitalizing and sustaining their communities through the RC&D program.

RC&D Area Map (pdf)

An RC&D area covers several counties. Assistance is provided, as authorized by the Secretary of Agriculture, to designated RC&D areas through their organized RC&D councils (comprised of local leaders). RC&D councils and their sponsors, in association with State, local, and Federal governments and nonprofit organizations, develop and implement local RC&D area plans. It is locally defined and directed by a council that consists of public and private sector sponsors and other local organizations that represent a diverse cross section of community interests. Sponsors include county and city governments, conservation districts, sub-state planning or economic districts, Tribal governments, and interested private organizations in the area. This grassroots involvement is highly valuable in shaping decision making at the local level. RC&D councils provide a way for people to plan and implement projects that will make their communities better places to live. RC&D priorities are set by area residents to meet their needs.

NRCS provides program administration. Funds appropriated to NRCS by Congress provide for technical assistance in the form of a USDA RC&D coordinator to the council. Coordinators work closely with councils to
develop and implement their area plans. The coordinator acts as a team coach, facilitator, liaison, and technical consultant to assist the council in its activities. The coordinator is a vital link between USDA and the RC&D council and its other partners. The goal is an empowered council that has the capacity to build effective public-private partnerships that result in strong rural community leadership and accomplishments. Other USDA agencies also provide technical and financial assistance to RC&D councils. The RC&D councils rely on the USDA assistance to ensure that their efforts are technically sound and to leverage support from
other sources. Councils also obtain the assistance of other local, State, and Federal agencies; private organizations; and foundations to carry out their projects. Thus, RC&D activities are broader than those created by assistance from USDA alone. RC&D councils implement their area plans
through projects that may include natural resource improvement, community improvement, forestry, education, economic development, water quantity and quality, recreation and tourism, marketing and
merchandising, fish and wildlife habitat enhancement, and waste management and utilization.

In fiscal year 2007, RC&Ds completed more than 4,278 projects. These resulted in 855 businesses created and 1,503 businesses expanded; 6,762 jobs created; 5,265 miles of streams; 370,463 acres of lakes and 1.64 million acres of wildlife habitat improved. Nearly 837,000 people developed new skills and served over 22 million citizens nationwide.

Natural resource improvement projects include basic protection, such as soil erosion control, noxious plant and pest control, streambank improvement, preservation of prime farmland, composting, and mine reclamation; resource studies involving soil, water, plants, and wildlife; energy conservation and alternative sources of energy, such as biomass other than wood; and recycling of glass, metals, paper, and wood.

Community improvement projects address improving community infrastructure; performing studies on zoning and ordinances, facilities, or services needed; constructing and improving public trails; and installing public resources. These can include building community centers; improving old community buildings; constructing, improving, or
repairing subsidized housing (apartments, single family homes, halfway houses, retirement homes); improving roads; improving and restoring parks and walking and bike trails; and installing dry fire hydrants.

Forestry projects include performing environmental improvements on forested areas; improving management of forests through such measures as land treatment for production; providing education on safety or
harvesting techniques; developing or expanding forest related industries; developing energy sources, such as wood waste for energy; developing or improving value added forestry related products; applying agroforestry practices; establishing cooperatives; performing studies, such as forest, species, or forest products inventories; and improving rural road infrastructure with timber bridges.

Education projects cover environmental education, conservation studies, and RC&D council awareness. Projects include outdoor classrooms; public school programs; job training programs; community awareness
activities; agriculture and forestry demonstrations; equipment and technique demonstrations for such products as no-till drills or specialized tree planters; organizing community events such as fairs or rallies; preparing brochures, videos, or displays; and disseminating information about the RC&D program.

Economic development projects include studies, such as producer surveys, marketing surveys, or feasibility studies; assisting with grants, loans, or other financing; assisting in the formation or expansion of agriculture or natural resource related businesses, such as farm equipment or other agriculture related suppliers, manufacturing, bed and
breakfast/motel, or other businesses involved with value-added products. Projects can include improvement of agricultural production, such as diversifying farm incomes and developing alternative markets for products.

Water projects are aimed at the improvement of surface and groundwater quality and quantity. Many deal with pollution control and dispersing water. Projects include watershed management; construction or rehabilitation of irrigation, flood control, and water drainage systems; construction or rehabilitation of aquaculture, wastewater treatment, and
purification operations; installation of buffer strips; and efficient use of aquifers.

Recreation and tourism projects include feasibility studies; establishment or improvement of water-based recreational areas
for swimming, boating, canoeing, and boat launching; establishment or improvement of non-water-based recreational areas, such as golf courses, rodeo arenas, trails, and ball parks; historic site preservation; establishment or upgrades of tourist attractions; and development of promotional materials, such as brochures, place mats, or commercials, for local tourist attractions. Marketing and merchandising projects include studies, formation of cooperatives or associations, development of business or marketing plans, and development of advertising and promotional materials for businesses.

Fish and wildlife projects concentrate on the protection, improvement, or development of fish and wildlife habitat.

Waste and waste utilization projects include efficient and environmentally sound disposal of animal waste, development or improvement of a landfill, waste collection, solid waste
disposal, and composting.

If you need more information about RC&D, please contact your local USDA Service Center, listed in the telephone book under U.S. Department of Agriculture, or your local conservation district.
Information also is available on the World Wide Web at: www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/rcd/

New england

New England RC&D Region