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Partners in Restoration

How it Works

Farmers, ranchers, growers and other rural land managers and landowners are the primary guardians of more than 60% of the nation's land. As the awareness of agriculture's impact on natural resources has increased, so has knowledge of ways to lessen that impact. People who make their living from the land are very involved in improving their land management strategies because they know that changes that benefit the environment and community health frequently benefit their operation as well.

As Sustainable Conservation works with private landowners to protect and restore natural resources, it's crucial to realize that land and land stewardship have a fundamental economic value to them. As the cost of improving their land management practices increases, landowners become more reluctant to make changes. These costs are not measured solely by construction dollars but also by time and other factors.

To encourage the voluntary participation of landowners and land managers in strategies to improve natural resources, Sustainable Conservation has designed a program that takes these costs into account. Landowners will typically move from interest in conservation to action if they have the following support:

  • Technical Assistance - Help understanding, designing and implementing the management changes and conservation projects.
  • Cost-Sharing - Funding to help them construct the projects that significantly benefit the community and environment.
  • Peer Pressure - Community perception and what the neighboring farmer is doing are powerful motivators.
  • Regulations - Most people are law abiding—they overwhelmingly attempt to comply with laws.

There are, however, barriers that stop or slow this voluntary participation:

  • Uncertainty - Concern about managing time, crops or bottom line.
  • Time and Cost of Practices - In addition to the cost of constructing a sediment basin or bank revegetation, it frequently costs time and money to maintain these management practices.
  • Complex Regulatory Review - Separate and independent environmental review for conservation projects often involves local, state, and federal agencies. This can cost more than $1,500 in permit fees and take well over a year to get approval.
  • Mistrust of Government - Many private landowners and agriculturalists have a general mistrust of "government" that ranges anywhere from slight to significant.

In Elkhorn Slough, even with all of the incentives in place, the complexity of regulatory review was overwhelming and farmers and ranchers simply felt unable to negotiate the process. The conservation projects were not constructed, technical and design assistance was underused, and important cost-share funds were not spent.

This was the genesis of Partners in Restoration—there simply must be a better way. And working together with partners, landowners and regulators, Sustainable Conservation has found it.