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ARS Home » Midwest Area » Ames, Iowa » National Laboratory for Agriculture and The Environment » Agroecosystems Management Research » Research » Research Project #437035

Research Project: Support NRCS States to Use and Adopt the Agricultural Conservation Planning Framework (ACPF) for Watershed Planning

Location: Agroecosystems Management Research

Project Number: 5030-13000-011-69-A
Project Type: Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: Aug 1, 2019
End Date: Aug 31, 2021

Objective:
The overall objective is to trial NRCS use of the Agricultural Conservation Planning Framework (ACPF) for watershed planning, through watershed pilot projects in new states, training workshops, and an independent assessment of NRCS readiness to utilize the ACPF technology. Specific objectives: The project will be organized into three sets of tasks: 1. Assessing NRCS's capacity to adopt the ACPF; 2. Developing ACPF databases and results for at least 15 pilot watersheds for field review and use in conservation planning by local NRCS staff and partners, and; 3. Developing training course materials for use by geographic information systems and conservation planning professionals, and providing training to NRCS and its partners in participating states.

Approach:
Specific approaches to be used include: 1. Determine NRCS states’ current status of readiness for ACPF. 2. Support NRCS use of ACPF and planning products in identified priority watersheds and maintain a database of tool inputs and results. 3. Expand on current training materials and modules, and provide training to NRCS staff and partners. 4. Outline a process that facilitates adaptive use of the ACPF toolbox for watershed planning applications in any agricultural region. This involves adapting existing tools to different landscapes and developing new conservation practice placement tools as appropriate/necessary. 5. Support maintenance of ACPF database development and web hosting through the agreement period to ensure successful completion of all objectives. 6. Provide a final summary of results and recommendation for future use and adoption of ACPF; including, training and education, ACPF use in watershed planning, and continued adaptation of toolbox. The readiness assessment will examine: 1. State-level and regional guidelines, expectations, and needs regarding ACPF usage for the NRCS; 2. Knowledge about and capacity of NRCS field office personnel to use ACPF output data; 3. Readiness of the existing ACPF training infrastructure and programming to support the implementation needs of the NRCS; and 4. Examine implications of expanded future use of the ACPF aimed to strengthen NRCS outreach and capacities for watershed- scale conservation planning. Data will be collected using interviews, online surveys, focus groups, and training evaluations. The availability of field boundary and topographic data as ACPF inputs will be determined by state. The ACPF watershed databases and planning products will be developed by the Cooperator following procedures described in the ACPF User Manual. ACPF input data will be developed as needed for pilot watersheds in new states. Several pilots will be ARS Conservation Effects Assessment Project watersheds. Input databases and watershed results will be provided to NRCS for review, evaluation, and use in training. Training team activities will provide ACPF training materials that can be adopted for professional development, extension, and university courses. Training materials will comply with Section 508 of the amended Rehabilitation Act of 1973 to ensure accessibility to all users. In-person trainings will be held in each participating state (with ARS participation), with separate training events for GIS-specialist technical staff and conservation planners. Training participants will include employees of NRCS and partner organizations working in the pilot watersheds. The ACPF website will also be maintained and kept up to date. A final report will include information on customization of ACPF outputs, describe an approach to adapt the ACPF for new agricultural landscapes, summarize key findings of the readiness assessment, and provide training recommendations where new planning efforts may be undertaken utilizing the ACPF.