Conservation Finance Can Mean Cleaner Air and Water and Healthier Soil

Dan Conservation, Environment, USDA-NRCS


USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the largest funder of conservation on private land in the U.S., supports producers’ transitions to beneficial farming and ranching practices. While these transitions can require an upfront cost, they also often lead to financial rewards. Healthy and resilient soils may lead to more productive crops requiring less fertilizer. And watersheds protected by forests and riverbanks with riparian habitat can lead to cleaner water downstream.

According to this East Bay Times article, over the years, many governments and private organizations have realized that ecosystem services have real financial value and can bring monetary returns. In response to this interest, NRCS established an intentional conservation finance funding source through its Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) program. Since 2015, CIG has funded projects led by over 35 conservation finance entities. Billions in new funding has gone towards conservation investment projects over the past few years.


Because the CIG program requires projects to match NRCS’ investment dollar-for-dollar, the program provides a smooth entry point for private funds to enter the conservation finance sector. While the natural resource challenges that this cohort of projects tackles vary from air to water to soil, the goal is often the same: find a way to direct new revenue streams and sources of private capital towards agricultural producers and rural economies while improving the Nation’s natural resources.

Learn more about CIG on the NRCS website, or contact your local USDA Service Center.