Performance Based Conservation

Participate in Performance Based Conservation

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WHY PERFORMANCE BASED CONSERVATION? This approach to implementing conservation on the landscape provides the greatest benefit to water quality, while still providing a high level of flexibility for the farmer. The goal is to build the soil’s resilience to drought or flood conditions, while reducing the loss of valuable nutrients and soil that may ultimately enter our waterways. It also bridges the urban-rural divide with a shared outcome-based goal of cleaner water.

Performance based conservation benefits farmers by:

* Recognizes the uniqueness of each crop field, and the varying impact of each conservation practice.

* Provides flexibility in management changes that fit farm goals and can accommodate specific geographical resource concerns.

* Earning incentives based on performance feels less prescriptive.

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Performance based conservation benefits stakeholders by:

* Quantifying reductions in phosphorus and sediment loss ensures return on investment for desired water quality metrics.

* Creating collaboration and innovation while solving community goals.

* Continual growth of program possible as interest grows and funding evolves.

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Are you a farmer interested in participating?

Are you a private company, non-profit, or municipality, that wants to support environmental improvement with private landowners?

Contact Tricia Verville, Sand County Foundation’s Agricultural Systems Director at

Our Efforts

Sand County Foundation is accelerating the adoption of regenerative agriculture in Wisconsin’s Lake Michigan and Mississippi River watersheds by helping farmers generate whole-farm conservation plans.

A three-year project is funded by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Sustain Our Great Lakes Program (SOGL), with support from General Mills and USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), creates an opportunity to advance regenerative agriculture in the Lake Michigan Basin with performance based conservation. This public-private partnership between General Mills, NRCS and NFWF is designed to sustain, restore and protect fish, wildlife and habitat. For more information on that work, click here for a farmer participation flyer, or click here for a project summary.

With a Wisconsin Conservation Innovation Grant provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), we are scaling performance based conservation to watersheds in central and eastern Wisconsin. Key partners in the project include Green Lake Sanitary District, Tilth Agronomy, Ozaukee County Land & Water Management Department, and the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade & Consumer Protection. For more information on that work, click here.

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Grafton Watershed Partnership

Through a grant from Fund for Lake Michigan, Sand County Foundation is actively promoting a performance-based conservation approach with the Village of Grafton, and other communities and industries in the Milwaukee River watershed. This collaboration has created a successful adaptive management strategy where Grafton's water treatment facility partners with farms to improve water quality and meet permit needs. Making thoughtful connections and training others to facilitate this new strategy allows Grafton to build a strong future on the base Sand County Foundation helped establish. For more information on that work, click here.

The Milwaukee River Pay for Performance project was a collaboration of Winrock International and Delta Institute with capital support provided by the Great Lakes Protection Fund. A data driven performance based approach tracked the environmental impacts of farmer selected conservation practices and offered payments based on verified environmental improvements. For more on that work, click here.


This guidance document for Wisconsin municipalities incorporates lessons learned during our pilot project with the Village of Grafton. The process described focuses on building trust between stakeholders to achieve the goals and objects of an entire watershed community. To view the document click here.

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This document authored by Winrock International and Delta Institute serves as a comprehensive guide for agricultural and conservation organizations, publicly-owned treatment works (POTWs), and municipalities interested in planning and implementing flexible solutions for agricultural nonpoint source pollution. To view the document click here.

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