An evaluation and planning framework used by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service is called SWAPA+H. The letters stand for Soil, Water, Air, Plants, Animal, and Human resources. When we develop conservation plans, SWAPA+H helps us remember to look at all of the resources present or available on your land.
Nine-step planning process
For large-scale plans, our conservationists have been trained in the three-phase, nine-step planning process used across the country by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and partner conservation districts. There are three phases to the nine-step planning process, and although they are presented here in a linear manner, the actual planning process is much more dynamic.
Phase I – Collection and Analysis (Understanding the Problems and Opportunities)
1. Identify Problems
2. Determine Objectives
3. Inventory Resources
4. Analyze Resource Data
Phase II – Decision Support (Understanding the Solutions)
5. Formulate Alternatives
6. Evaluate Alternatives
7. Make Decisions
Phase III – Application and Evaluation (Understanding the Results)
8. Implement the Plan
9. Evaluate the Plan
A cyclic, dynamic process
It is a cycling process, repeating as needed to arrive at conservation solutions that address the resource issues and meet your needs.
For smaller projects, our planners may not perform a full nine-step process on paper, but that knowledge is present in the background while they help you.
You can dive deeper into this planning approach through a series of web pages starting at https://aglearn.usda.gov/customcontent/NRCS/Consplan/module3/3phase9step1.html.
If you’d rather do some of this work on your own, you’ll find the STEPS program a great help.