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Tufts OpenCourseware
Authors: Kathleen Merrigan, Ph.D., William Lockeretz, Ph.D.


Geography of Hope. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service ( Dec 1996).

Pages 7-13, excluding all but 3 boxes:

  • p.10 “Conservation Districts….”
  • p.22 “Letting Farmland Stay Farmland”
  • p.23 “High Quality Farmland….” (Pages 26 -43, including all boxes /maps) (Page 60,map “NRCS Regions...”; Page 61, box “NRCS Employees….”

The Role of the NRCS in the Development and Implementation of Soil and Water Conservation Policies in the U.S. Paul Johnson, Chap 4, Soil and Water Conservation Policies and Programs, Successes and Failures, Napier, Napier and Tyrdon editors. (2000).

National Resources Inventory, U.S. Department of Agriculture, NRCS (2002).

National Resources Inventory, 2002 Annual Inventory

Key Questions

Geography of Hope

  • Why are natural resource conservation efforts on private lands important in the United States?
  • Which early Constitutional Act and Agency explicitly promoted efforts of natural resource conservation on private lands?
  • Are there examples of efforts for conservation on private lands which are bearing fruit?
  • What are the major differences between conservation on private and public lands?
  • What are the major problems pertaining to conservation efforts on private lands?
  • What efforts have been made in order to keep the farmlands under agriculture? Why is it important to do so?
  • What is the contribution of agriculture to the country’s economy?
  • What is the importance of National Resources Inventory ( NRI) for conservation efforts?
  • What are the indicators that suggest the need for conservation efforts on private lands?
  • Did soil erosion increase or decrease between 1982 and 1992? What was the major factor influencing the change?
  • What is the importance of organic matter for soil conservation and health? What factors influence organic matter content in soils?
  • What kind of erosion was not accounted for in the soil loss assessment programs? Is this an important factor that one should consider?
  • How does agriculture contribute to water pollution?
  • What are the major regions of operations of NRCS?
  • What is the general trend that can be seen with reference to professional disciplinary backgrounds and location of NRCS employees?

Role of NRCS

  • According to Johnson, what are the three eras of natural resource conservation in the U.S.?
  • What is his perception about voluntary versus regulatory approaches for conservation?
  • What are the four steps for conservation that he suggests?


  • What are the major trends indicating changes in the process of NRI?

Be prepared to state what the trend is for irrigation in Massachusetts. ( Hint: Look at the NRI 1997 summary report ( Revised 2000) for cropland use.)