Modern technology brings planning resources, staff to help conservation efforts on-site
SALINA -- Enhancing customer service of the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is the driving force behind the new concept of “mobile field office," a pilot project in Kansas. The use of current technology and scientific information enables NRCS employees to help landowners voluntarily address conservation concerns and meet goals for their land.

In the fall of 2006, Harold Klaege, state conservationist for NRCS in Kansas, decided it was time to free employees from buildings and allow them to do more conservation planning where he felt it should be done -- in the grasslands and croplands of Kansas.

"Today, with the latest portable equipment at their fingertips -- such as laptop computers, geographic information system (GIS) technology, printers, cell phones, and more -- NRCS field staff can meet with a farmer or rancher on the land and develop a conservation plan on-site," says Klaege.

Chris Tecklenburg, NRCS rangeland management specialist at the South Hutchinson Field Office, is just one of 15 Kansas NRCS employees who is participating in this statewide pilot project. His equipment consists of a truck equipped with the latest technological tools, including a portable computer tablet, printer, scanner, laptop, GIS, and global positioning system (GPS).

“I can create a grazing plan, for example, print it, and give it to the land manager right in the pasture,” explains Tecklenburg. "It makes sense to do everything in the field, so I can focus on the customer. Back at the office, interruptions are inevitable, and it’s sometimes hard to stay focused on a single job.”

With his mobile equipment, Tecklenburg is able to assist producers like Derek Zongker, Sylvia, who lives 40 miles from his local NRCS office.

“Anytime you’re able to go out on the ground and actually see what you’re talking about, it is a good thing,” says Zongker.

Using Tecklenburg's equipment and expertise, a conservation plan was developed and appropriate conservation practices identified to address Zongker's concerns. As a result, Zongker was accepted in the NRCS Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) to receive cost-share assistance on conservation practices such as a watering system, interior fences, and incentive payments for rotational grazing. He attributes his one-on-one discussions in the field to the success of his plan.

Other mobile unit locations include Colby, Gove, Stockton, Ness City, Dodge City, Ulysses, Belleville, Kingman, Oskaloosa, Marion, Eureka, and El Dorado. Technical assistance is also available from the NRCS at local USDA Service Centers or online at