The private sector is a natural for the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). Because 70% of land in the US is privately owned, NRCS must emphasize relationships with individual owners to meet its mission of conserving soil, water, and other natural resources. Established in 1935 as the Soil Conservation Service, the NRCS provides financial and technical assistance for conservation activities, manages natural resource conservation programs, and offers expertise in a variety of agricultural arenas. The Department of Agriculture division additionally participates in international scientific and technical exchanges with foreign governments. The agency's budget is about $4.5 billion per year.
One method NRCS uses to partner with private land owners is through easement programs, including the Farm and Ranch Land Protection Program and the Grasslands Reserve Program. Additionally, the Conservation Technical Assistance program has stationed conservationists in just about every US county to assist land users with natural resource management. In all NRCS operates from 2,900 offices. Ninety percent of its staff works outside of Washington, DC.