The Sentinel Landscapes Partnership is a coalition of federal agencies, state and local governments, and nongovernmental organizations that work with private landowners to advance sustainable land management practices around military installations and ranges.
The Sentinel Landscapes Partnership is a coalition of federal agencies, state and local governments, and nongovernmental organizations that work with private landowners to advance sustainable land management practices around military installations and ranges. Founded in 2013 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Department of Defense, and Department of the Interior, the partnership’s mission is to strengthen military readiness, conserve natural resources, bolster agricultural and forestry economies, and increase climate change resilience.
Sentinel Landscapes accomplish their objectives by connecting private landowners with voluntary state and federal assistance programs that provide agricultural loans, disaster relief, educational opportunities, financial and technical assistance, and funding for conservation easements.
Once the partnership designates a location as a Sentinel Landscape, local partners work with federal agencies to support private landowners in accessing the resources necessary to carry out sustainable management practices on their properties. Sustainable management practices, such as farming, ranching and forestry, not only offer economic and ecological benefits, but also protect defense facilities from incompatible development that can constrain the military's ability to carry out training and testing activities.
Since 2013, Sentinel Landscapes have worked with private landowners to permanently protect more than 515,000 acres and implement sustainable management practices on an additional 2.7 million acres around military testing and training areas. These efforts have preserved wildlife habitat, bolstered agricultural and forest production, and reduced land use conflicts around military bases.
The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and other partners work jointly to identify natural resource needs in Sentinel Landscapes and reach out to eligible landowners and offer voluntary technical and financial assistance to address resource concerns. Conservation tools include conservation easements and many other conservation practices.
NRCS acquires conservation easements under the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP). ACEP has two components—agricultural land easements and the wetland reserve easements.
- ACEP's agricultural land easements not only protect the long-term viability of the nation's food supply by preventing conversion of productive working lands to nonagricultural uses, but they also support environmental quality, historic preservation, wildlife habitat, and protection of open space. ACEP now focuses on the protection of grasslands of special environmental significance, which are high-quality grasslands that are under threat of conversion to cropping, urban development, and other nongrazing uses.
- ACEP’s wetland reserve easements allow landowners to successfully enhance and protect habitat for wildlife on their lands, reduce impacts from flooding, recharge groundwater, and provide outdoor recreational and educational opportunities.
NRCS also acquires easements or works with entities to acquire easements through the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP). RCPP is a partner-driven approach to conservation that funds solutions to natural resource challenges on agricultural land, which includes easements. Easements meet both the program goals and the partner’s project goals.
- Easements held by eligible entities include RCPP agricultural land easements that protect the agricultural use and future viability and related conservation values of eligible land by limiting nonagricultural uses of the land and protect grazing uses by restoring or conserving eligible land.
- Easements held by the United States include RCPP wetland reserve easements that restore, protect, and enhance eligible wetlands, and RCPP healthy forest reserve easements that restore and enhance forest ecosystems for at-risk species, biodiversity, and carbon sequestration.
NRCS offers technical and financial assistance to eligible agricultural producers through various conservation programs to address soil, water, air, and related natural resource concerns on agricultural land and nonindustrial private forestland. Those conservation programs include:
- Environmental Quality Incentives Program helps farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners integrate conservation into working lands.
- Conservation Stewardship Program builds on existing conservation efforts and helps landowners take their conservation efforts to the next level while strengthening their operations.
For more information about Sentinel Landscapes, visit sentinellandscapes.org.
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Contact your local service center to start your application.
How to Get Assistance
Do you farm or ranch and want to make improvements to the land that you own or lease?
Natural Resources Conservation Service offers technical and financial assistance to help farmers, ranchers and forest landowners.
To get started with NRCS, we recommend you stop by your local NRCS field office. We’ll discuss your vision for your land.
NRCS provides landowners with free technical assistance, or advice, for their land. Common technical assistance includes: resource assessment, practice design and resource monitoring. Your conservation planner will help you determine if financial assistance is right for you.
We’ll walk you through the application process. To get started on applying for financial assistance, we’ll work with you:
- To fill out an AD 1026, which ensures a conservation plan is in place before lands with highly erodible soils are farmed. It also ensures that identified wetland areas are protected.
- To meet other eligibility certifications.
Once complete, we’ll work with you on the application, or CPA 1200.
Applications for most programs are accepted on a continuous basis, but they’re considered for funding in different ranking periods. Be sure to ask your local NRCS district conservationist about the deadline for the ranking period to ensure you turn in your application in time.
As part of the application process, we’ll check to see if you are eligible. To do this, you’ll need to bring:
- An official tax ID (Social Security number or an employer ID)
- A property deed or lease agreement to show you have control of the property; and
- A farm tract number.
If you don’t have a farm tract number, you can get one from USDA’s Farm Service Agency. Typically, the local FSA office is located in the same building as the local NRCS office. You only need a farm tract number if you’re interested in financial assistance.
NRCS will take a look at the applications and rank them according to local resource concerns, the amount of conservation benefits the work will provide and the needs of applicants.
If you’re selected, you can choose whether to sign the contract for the work to be done.
Once you sign the contract, you’ll be provided standards and specifications for completing the practice or practices, and then you will have a specified amount of time to implement. Once the work is implemented and inspected, you’ll be paid the rate of compensation for the work if it meets NRCS standards and specifications.