What Is the Resource Conservation & Development Program?
To carry out the RC&D concept, diverse groups of
local volunteers are brought together in a unique partnership
to find solutions to their problems. The structure for
this process involves:
- Identifying problems
- Establishing goals and objectives
- Developing alternative plans
- Implementing plans
Local people are best able to determine needs and create
solutions for their community. The strength of RC&D
is in the commitment of people to solve their own problems.
The Resource Conservation & Development
(RC&D) Program is a national program that helps communities
improve their economies through the wise use of natural resources.
Currently there are 348 RC&D Areas designated for United State
Department of Agriculture (USDA) assistance by the Secretary of
Agriculture. In New York, communities have used the RC&D program
to improve watershed conditions, attract new forest industries,
upgrade town parks, and improve farm profits. The purpose of the
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 authorized RC&D areas. The USDA Natural Resource
Conservation Service (NRCS) provides administrative support for
the RC&D program including office space and staff.
How Does the RC&D Program Work?
Local people plan and carry out programs
in each RC&D area through the RC&D Council, which includes
representatives from local sponsoring agencies. The RC&D Council
and committee members include people from all walks of life -
farmers, bankers, politicians, consumers, business people and
others who volunteer their time to help make their community a
better place to live. The Council identifies the community needs,
plan projects to address those needs and secures help from appropriate
state, federal, and private agencies to get the job done. The
Council also appoints committees to advise on specific natural
resource areas of concern, such as recreation, watershed protection,
agriculture, and forestry. Committee members usually include interested
citizens with expertise in the committee's area of responsibility
and professional advisers from local, state, and federal agencies.
The Beauty of the RC&D Program
Environmental problems do not stop
at township, county or state boundaries and that is where the
beauty and flexibility of the RC&D program comes in to play.
The RC&D program was designed to handle multi-county problems,
which involve more than one unit of government. RC&D Councils
can form partnerships with private individuals, private companies
and public agencies to assemble resources to help correct environmental
problems or any other problem where Council members feel they
The History of RC&D: How it Began
In 1961, the Administrator of the
U.S. Soil Conservation Service (now the Natural Resources Conservation
Service), and the Secretary of Agriculture decided to test a new
approach to rural development. It was their belief that "given
the opportunity, local people could develop and carry out an action-oriented
plan for the social, economic, and environmental betterment of
The success of this idea rested on
three fundamental principles: (1) give local citizens the authority
to identify and prioritize local issues and the power to administer
a program that addressed those concerns, (2) detail a U.S. Department
of Agriculture employee to serve as staff to this local group
to help them determine and implement a plan of action, and (3)
provide limited financial support to the effort.
Three demonstration sites were selected
to test the validity of this unique approach to community development.
Local rural development councils were created, staff was assigned,
and soon the planning and community assessment effort began. The
results were so impressive that Congress was asked to establish
the Resource Conservation and Development (RC&D) Program as
a permanent part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s rural
development thrust. With passage of Public Law 97-98 in 1962,
the RC&D concept was born.
The RC&D concept is based on
forging partnerships, between the program and state and local
governments, local Conservation Districts, and the dedicated citizen
volunteers who contribute their time and effort to making their
communities a better place. Today, Lake Plains RC&D Council
is one of 348 RC&D program areas located throughout the nation
working to improve their communities.