WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Representatives of the USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service, Farm Service Agency, and U.S. Department of the Interior's Bureau of Indian Affairs have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to facilitate the coordination, planning and implementation of USDA conservation programs on Indian lands.

"This agreement will help us achieve our mutual goal of providing better access to USDA conservation programs and ultimately improve conservation enhancements on Indian lands in an environmentally, culturally and economically sound manner," said Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns.

The MOU is the culmination of a concerted effort to bring about better coordination of USDA conservation programs on Indian lands by identifying the respective federal responsibilities that must be coordinated by the three agencies. It also recognizes the role of American Indians and Indian tribes as landowners, land users, and as sovereign governmental entities with authority and responsibility for the development and administration of natural resource programs on Indian lands.

The BIA, NRCS, and FSA share three common objectives, including consulting with Indian landowners and Indian tribes, promoting the best management practices for Indian lands and managing and conserving natural resources. BIA administers 55.7 million acres of land held in trust by the United States for American Indians, Indian tribes, and Alaska natives.

There are 561 federally recognized tribal governments in the United States. NRCS provides technical and financial assistance for implementing conservation programs on non-federal, private, and tribal lands. FSA helps farmers and ranchers conserve land, air, wildlife, and water resources by providing credit to new or disadvantaged agricultural producers.

For more information go to www.nrcs.usda.gov or www.fsa.usda.gov or visit the nearest USDA Service Center.