The Area Plan is the most important document prepared by the council. The area plan is a “long range plan” describing rural development problems and opportunities in the RC&D area that will be addressed over a 5-10 year period. It also lists alternative solutions to problems and identifies the barriers to overcome. Finally, it contains the policies, goals and objectives that define the council’s course of action in addressing rural development issues. The document is prepared by the council with the assistance of the RC&D staff and with input from local citizens, RC&D sponsors, and technical advisors from various agencies and organizations. In addition to guiding actions of the council, the area plan, along with the annual plan of work, is used by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service to ensure that the council remains eligible for continue USDA funding support.
Annual Plan of Work
The plan of work is revised annually and is considered the “action” part of the area plan. It outlines activities planned for the year that will move the council toward achieving the goals contained in the area plan. Projects approved by the council are listed along with target completion dates. Other information in the annual plan includes a list of specific activities planned, the council member responsible for each activity, project costs, and potential sources of financial and technical assistance. Care must be used to avoid including too much in the plan of work. Realism about how much the council can actually accomplish must be considered. At a minimum, the annual plan should be reviewed and modified as needed each quarter.
The council develops a set of priorities to identify projects which will be completed first, second, third, etc. Priorities are based upon how well the project addresses council goals and objectives, the rural development needs in the area, the amount of local support for the project, the scope of the project impact (local vs. regional), council and staff availability, and the potential of leveraging human and financial resources to implement the project. The council develops policy in regard to establishing priorities in order to avoid confusion and misunderstanding.