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Natural Resources & Environment Overview

Natural Resources & Environment (NRE) is a broad emphasis area with major impact on the quality of our world. NIFA national leadership integrates research, education, and extension expertise to address contemporary environmental and natural resource problems with new approaches that are economically sound and environmentally advantageous. NIFA conducts its programs primarily in partnership with land-grant university scientists and cooperative extension faculty.

NRE programs strengthen the nation's capacity to address critical environmental priorities and contribute to improved air, soil, and water quality; fish and wildlife management; enhanced aquatic and other ecosystems; the sustainable use and management of forests, rangelands, watersheds, and other renewable natural resources; and a better understanding of global climate change, including its impact on the diversity of plant and animal life. NRE programs also demonstrate the benefits and opportunities of sustainable development, and contribute to the economic viability of agriculture and rural communities realizing the impact of environmental policies and regulations.

Natural resource sustainability increasingly depends on the use and management decisions of individual private landowners, who collectively control more than two-thirds of the nation's land and water resources. With agriculture no longer the largest element in the economic base of most rural communities, natural resource wealth and income opportunities are becoming more important to farmers, ranchers, other landowners, and communities.

Pressures on land and natural resource use are increasing, competing, and often conflicting. Public demand keeps growing for natural resource products, services, and improved environmental quality. Changing demographics and social values bring new challenges. Urbanization has serious impacts on ecosystem structure and function. Ecosystems have become increasingly fragmented for the production of food and forest products.

Research to discover new, improved ways to use and manage natural resources and educational programs that teach best management practices will enhance environmental and economic benefits, as well as human well-being. These NIFA activities are critical investments for our future.