USDA Researchers Working Together to Conserve Our Nation’s Resources

Last Published: 09/16/2013

USDA researchers are working together to protect and conserve our beautiful nation and all of its majestic natural resources for generations to come.  As part of USDA’s Conservation Effects Assessment Project (CEAP), more than 60 USDA-Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists are working together to gain a better understanding of the role that agricultural conservation programs and practices play in achieving our nation’s environmental objectives of clean air and water, healthy soils and flourishing natural habitats.

USDA began the CEAP program in 2003 to study the environmental benefits of conservation practices implemented through 2002 Farm Bill programs.  As part of CEAP, ARS scientists are evaluating 14 watersheds across 12 ARS locations to provide the additional scientific basis for the CEAP National Assessment being led by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.  Those watersheds were selected in part to address specific concerns, like manure management on animal feeding operations, water use on irrigated cropland, drainage water management, wildlife habitat and riparian restoration. These watershed studies also should help develop performance measures for estimating soil, water and air quality, and perhaps other potential benefits for specific conservation practices.

ARS scientists have developed Web-based tools, databases and models to help farmers, ranchers, land managers, policy makers, other Federal agencies and experts more easily manage and evaluate information that can help them make more informed environmentally- and economically-based decisions that support our nation’s conservation efforts.

As a further extension of ARS’ conservation research efforts, in September 2012, ARS established the Long-Term Agro-ecosystem Research (LTAR) network, which includes 10 ARS sites and builds on existing ARS experimental watersheds—including  several that also contribute to the CEAP watersheds and rangelands efforts nationwide. The LTAR network addresses large-scale, multi-year research, environmental management and technology transfer related to the nation’s agricultural ecosystems in an assortment of different environments, at regional-to-continental scales.

What we do and how we do it has a lasting impact on our wildlife and their habitats, our water, land, air, and ultimately our planet’s health as a whole.  Information gleaned from programs like CEAP and LTAR will provide a stronger knowledge base on the true effects that agricultural, environmental and other practices have on our nation’s natural resources—helping us all to be better stewards and protectors of our world.

For a list and description of the watersheds in this study visit:

For more information about USDA’s CEAP program visit:

For more information about the LTAR network visit: