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This section discusses the conditions under which agricultural uses can be permitted in parks, factors to consider in planning agricultural uses, and the three ways in which such uses can be implemented.Policy and Program Objectives
The NPS Management Policies states:
Agricultural uses and activities are authorized in parks in accordance with the direction provided by a park's enabling legislation and general management plan. Agricultural practices and techniques, including the use of pesticides and other biocontrol agents such as genetically modified or engineered organisms, should be specified in an approved resource management plan, and are subject to review and approval by the NPS integrated pest management (IPM) program manager. These practices and techniques are also subject to the provisions of federal and state laws, NPS regulations and policies, and Director's Orders # 53 and #77-7. In general, agricultural activities should be conducted in accordance with accepted best management practices.
Agricultural activities, including demonstration farms, prescribed to meet a park's management objectives, will be allowed if (1) they do not result in unacceptable impacts to park resources, values, or purposes; (2) they conform to activities that occurred during the historic period; and (3) they support the park's interpretive themes. Agricultural uses that do not conform to those in practice during a historic period may be allowed if (1) they are authorized by the park's enabling legislation; (2) they are retained as a right subsequent to NPS land acquisition; (3) they contribute to the maintenance of a cultural landscape; or (4) they are carried out as part of a living exhibit or interpretive demonstration.
The Service may issue leases or special use permits to individuals or organizations to conduct agricultural activities that are allowed on park lands under criteria listed in the preceding paragraph. The use of a lease (versus a special use permit) is appropriate only when (1) specifically authorized by the park's enabling legislation; or (2) it is part of a historic preservation program authorized by 16 USC 470h-3; or (3) it is associated with a building that is leased pursuant to 16 USC 1a-2(k). NPS and concession employees living in parks may cultivate gardens for personal use under terms and conditions established by the superintendent. Such use will not be permitted if it would have unacceptable impacts on park resources, values, or purposes, or visitor enjoyment thereof. In urban parks, areas may be designated for community recreational gardening under the same conditions. (8.6.7)
The following additional NPS Management Policies are also critical to management of agricultural activities in cultural areas:
The treatment of a cultural landscape will preserve significant physical attributes, biotic systems, and uses when those uses contribute to historical significance. Treatment decisions will be based on a cultural landscape's historical significance over time, existing conditions, and use. Treatment decisions will consider both the natural and built characteristics and features of a landscape, the dynamics inherent in natural processes and continued use, and the concerns of traditionally associated peoples.
The treatment implemented will be based on sound preservation practices to enable long-term preservation of a resource's historic features, qualities, and materials. There are three types of treatment for extant cultural landscapes: preservation, rehabilitation, and restoration. (18.104.22.168)
Agricultural uses that are consistent with the park's purposes should be supported by appropriate planning and management documents such as the general management plan, resource management plan, cultural landscape inventory, and the cultural landscape report.Authorities
See discussion of general authorities in Chapter 1. Other authorities include the Food Quality Protection Act, the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act the National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979, Executive Order 13112 (Invasive Species), Executive Order 11988 (Floodplain Management), and Executive Order 11990 (Protection of Wetlands). Also useful is 45 FR 59189 concerning prime farmland.Relationship to Other Guidance
Additional guidance on agricultural uses will be found in NPS Management Policies, the DO/RM 28 Cultural Resource Management, DO/RM 53 Special Park Uses, and Special Directive 82-6, Policy on Dead and Down Wood and Wood Products. In this reference manual, see Vegetation Management, Native Animal Management, Nonnative Species Management, Freshwater Resources Management, Soil Resources Management, Protection of Aesthetic Values, Integrated Pest Management, Public Health and Safety,Domestic and Feral Livestock Management, Administrative Uses of Resources, and Environmental Compliance.Program Guidance
Reasons for Agricultural Uses
There are many reasons for agricultural uses within NPS areas, all of which must be grounded in legislation and policy. Aside from legislative requirements to permit or continue a particular use, agricultural uses in general fit into the following categories. Cultural landscape: A cultural landscape may be preserved, restored, or rehabilitated to preserve and foster appreciation of cultural values. The significance of the resource, its condition, its interpretive value, its research potential, and the availability of information should be weighed in determining the appropriate treatment. Reservations of use and occupancy: Agricultural uses may be required, or permitted, as part of uses and occupancies reserved by landowners when their property was acquired by the government. Concessions management: It may be necessary to allow some agricultural uses to support concessions operations required by park management. Gardening: Parks may permit gardening not associated with a cultural landscape when the gardens are connected with employee residences or are part of community gardening programs consistent with the park's purposes (the latter is usually in association with urban parks). Wildlife habitat: The NPS Management Policies states:
.Habitat manipulation for harvested species may include the restoration of a disturbed area to its natural condition so it can become self-perpetuating, but will not include the artificial manipulation of habitat to increase the numbers of a harvested species above its natural range in population levels." (4.4.3)
It may be possible to use agricultural practices, where otherwise allowable, as a mitigation measure to offset the loss of habitat caused by other management actions. In this case, the agricultural practice used to offset the loss of wildlife habitat is not intended to be an artificial manipulation of habitat to increase the numbers of a harvested species, but rather a mitigation measure that is required by other management actions. For example, to stabilize fields and prevent the runoff of water, soil, fertilizers, and pesticides, vegetative filter strips, field borders, waterways, and hedgerows are planted and/or maintained adjacent to most agricultural fields. Although these vegetative buffers are extremely important in decreasing the environmental threats produced by farming in a park, they also provide critical habitat, corridors, and food for the resident animal populations.Considerations in Agricultural Uses
When an agricultural use in a park is being considered, several items should be reviewed. A discussion of the most important of these follows.Pest Management
Pests within agricultural areas of parks should be managed closely. All pest management decisions should be based on an approved integrated pest management (IPM) plan, specifically developed to address a park's agricultural issues. All pesticide uses must be approved in advance as specified in Management Policies (22.214.171.124) and in this Reference Manual. Agricultural program managers and permittees have many pest management tools to select from in the management of their pest issues. However, it is critical that in selecting a pest management strategy, factors such as site sensitivity and resource significance should be considered before any action is initiated. In addition, when determined to be the best management tools available for a particular pest, pesticides should not be used within a park without prior notification to park employees, cooperators, and visitors. Areas where pesticides have been applied should be posted as specified on the pesticide label. If the complete label has no posting specifications, treated areas that are subject to visitation should be posted until dry.
Practices generally applied in the private sector for pest management may not be consistent with the service's integrated pest management policy, or they may be inconsistent with practices used during the historic period that is being recreated. Pests that occur today may not have been present historically. Native pest species should be allowed to function unimpeded unless they are interfering with the mandated management goals of the park. In general, agricultural efforts dependent on inorganic fertilizers and chemical pest control products to sustain productivity should be discouraged. Agricultural pest management activities should be reviewed annually and, if needed, modified to address actual field data collected by crop technicians, scouts, or monitors. The use of pesticides based on pre-determined schedules should be discouraged. The use of agricultural practices such as crop rotation and the use of disease and insect resistant crop varieties can greatly decrease the incidence of pests in a particular planting and are strongly encouraged. Refer to Integrated Pest Management in this Reference Manual for further guidance on pest management.Historic Period
If preservation, rehabilitation, or restoration of a cultural landscape is the primary purpose of agricultural use, critical elements of the landscape that are to be maintained should be identified by qualified cultural and natural resource specialists. These critical elements may include specific patterns of vegetation structure, including various heights of crops, orchards, woodlots, and woodlands; field sizes and other landscape patterns; sites with certain species, such as a grove of mature trees; stone walls and other structures; topography; wetlands; springs, streams, and drainage channels; and roads and traces. Certain of these elements may not be compatible with the economics of modern agriculture. Consult members of traditionally associated social groups and refer to ethnographic studies of traditional resource use for data on customary management regimes and their consequences, as noted in Cultural Resource Management DO 28: Chapter 10, Management of Ethnographic Resources. All agricultural activity for the purpose of managing cultural landscapes should be carried out in accordance with a cultural landscape report prepared in compliance with the Cultural Resources Management DO 28 and A Guide to Cultural Landscape Reports (available from park cultural resource managers or from Park Historic Structures and Cultural Landscapes Program managers). It is also important that all cultural landscape management efforts are in accordance with the Natural Resource Management DO 77.Historic Methods
Many parks attempt to recreate the methods of production used during a site-specific historic period. Although considered an excellent interpretive tool, a program recreating early agricultural methods may not meet the NPS mandate of preserving the landscape for future generations. Historic methods may also be impossible to recreate. For example, at one NPS unit, research revealed that historic dry land farming techniques were inappropriate in today's drier environmental conditions.
In addition, historic techniques are often better simulated than actually employed. Most NPS units do not have the staff or funds necessary to recreate the historic techniques used by farmers. For example, the use of horse-drawn equipment requires several times more labor than modern equipment. The cost involved in this type of operation is beyond the budget of most NPS sites. The use of historical techniques should, therefore, be evaluated according to site-specific management goals and operating funds available.
Impacts from agricultural operations include ecosystem fragmentation and increases in "edge habitat," changes in the types of cover and food produced, toxic effects of pesticides and fertilizers, and direct mortality caused by tillage and mowing. (Agricultural operations typically hold plant succession at an early stage, benefiting some species of wildlife, known as farm game, and harming species that favor climax vegetation.) These impacts should be analyzed and documented prior to making decisions on agricultural programs.
Agricultural lands, especially those producing row crops, are more vulnerable to soil erosion than native ecosystems. Soil erosion can be effectively controlled using reduced tillage systems; crop rotations, cover crops, and other organic farming techniques; and engineering methods such as terraces and waterways. Under no circumstances should soil erosion be allowed to exceed tolerable levels established for the site, or soil, by the Natural Resources Conservation Service. The Natural Resource Conservation Service can prepare conservation plans that assist in controlling soil erosion, at no cost to the parks.
Agricultural lands often export silt, nutrients, and pesticides to surface and ground waters. The Natural Resource Conservation Service can advise on best management practices that will reduce water pollution risks.
With new industry designed land management methods being suggested by farmers each year, great care must be taken to review the traditional, current, and proposed cultural practices, along with their impacts to park resources when considering agricultural land uses. Consult local farmers and other traditionally associated groups to develop an ethnographic profile of traditional use practices and present experiences that reflect cultural knowledge of various farming techniques, crop selection, conservation practices, and environmental consequences. No-till farming, for example, may help protect erodible soils and archeological resources, but usually requires more intensive use of pesticides and fertilizers. On the other hand, organic farming practices allow the production of a crop and often can eliminate all agricultural pesticide use in a park. Farming with little or no pesticide use can greatly decrease the threat of pesticide accidents involving park visitors, cooperators, and employees.
Crop and Breed Selection
Crop and breed selection should be consistent not only with needs identified in the park's cultural landscape report but also with maintenance of a sound environment. For example, the cornfield at Antietam is integral to the historic events that occurred there. However, the specific variety of corn grown may not be critical. Similarly, non-historic crops may be appropriate (e. g., soybeans or short-grass meadow where the need is only to maintain open fields). Likewise, the crop selected can affect other considerations, such as management of nuisance wildlife or pesticide use. A further consideration in crop selection is genetic variety. Many historic varieties have been discarded over time because of disease or pest problems. Consequently, many antique varieties have limited use. However, because historic landscape standards should support the perpetuation of historic species rather than replacement with modern species, historic varieties should be retained where they still occur in a park. These historic cultivars may be significant relics of human history, even if they are of "limited use." In cases where historic varieties no longer exist, in orchard trees for example, it may be possible to find historic varieties grafted onto modern rootstock, which thereby increases the probability of success and longevity of the plant. When using historical varieties of plants, special consideration should be given to choosing the most pest resistant plants and rootstock that are appropriate.
When selecting a type of crop or plant for an agricultural or landscape operation, efforts should be made to use a species native to the region that would be compatible with the management needs of the park. For instance, if a park needs to maintain a field open and free of tall vegetation, a native grass species that is conducive to attracting and supporting native wildlife might be considered.
Park managers should be aware that genetically engineered, pesticide-resistant varieties of certain agricultural plant species are available commercially. Before considering these varieties, managers should thoroughly investigate and examine all available scientific data on the potential for these plants to hybridize with local problematic plant species. Hybridization could make management of these species more difficult.
Similarly, the selection of livestock should receive thorough consideration. Generally, a historically correct breed or one closely similar should be used if available.
Conservation practices and their impacts should be thoroughly considered when planning and preparing parkland for agricultural uses. Practices that improve soil and control invasive and unwanted plants should be fostered. Attention should be given to such considerations as direction of planting; rotation of crops and fields; management of invasive plants; use of native species in turn rows and as cover crops; and rotational grazing. Attention should also be given to seasonal variation in animal units per month that an area can support; wetland protection and restoration; riparian buffer protection, maintenance, and restoration; soil pH; timely and need-based fertilization; impacts on soil and equipment; impact on cultural resources; and ground and surface water runoff, siltation, and pesticides. Knowledge of the soil type and distance to both groundwater and surface water is important. This information can be very important when considering whether or not to use pesticides, or when determining what pesticide to use. These issues are usually addressed in a conservation plan for a specific piece of agricultural land. The local Natural Resource Conservation Office develops these plans, with direct input from the NPS.
The management of plant diseases in an agricultural setting is best accomplished through sound and progressive cultural activities. These activities should include the use of regionally adapted disease-free plants and the use of proper planting techniques so that plants are not crowded and air movement on the site is adequate to prevent moisture buildup. Additional practices that are important in the prevention of disease establishment on any particular site are planting date, the use of timely nutritional and cultural techniques to increase plant health, and the need to use sanitary tools and equipment. Successful disease control relies on advance planning and implementation of cultural and mechanical activities, rather than simply on remedial actions involving pesticides and other chemical solutions.Succession and Diversity
In the absence of human activity or recurring natural disturbances, all sites will progress to later stages of succession. Major inputs of labor, energy and in many cases, herbicides are required to hold sites at the early stages of succession that are typical of agricultural lands. Succession will be managed on NPS lands only when necessary to meet specific objectives established in approved management plans. Native species will be used where appropriate, especially in orchards and pastures. Improving species diversity on a site should be an important goal of any vegetation management efforts.Nonnative Plants
Agricultural activities can provide the opportunity for the introduction of nonnative plants into park systems. Many plant species, including some agriculturally important species, grow best in soils that have been disturbed or loosened. Tilled soil and exposure to sunlight can provide ideal habitat for invading nonnative species such as knapweed, multiflora rose, burcucumber, tree-of-heaven (ailanthus), and thistle. Plants that are determined to be invasive should be removed or managed as quickly as possible, using all available management tools. All seeds and plant material brought into the park for purposes of agricultural use, including small plantings such as community and employee gardens, should be screened to prevent the introduction of invasive and/or nonnative plants that might compromise existing native vegetation. Park employees and permittees should carefully clean seeds and other plant materials from their agricultural equipment, before using it in the park. The equipment should also be cleaned between sites, preventing the accidental movement of nonnative or invasive plants to a new location.Harvesting and Disposal
Agricultural uses, almost by definition, will result in some type of harvesting and subsequent disposal of the crop. While community and employee gardens or field crops managed under a special use permit do not usually present a problem, the disposal of crops as varied as eggs from chickens at a living history farm to firewood resulting from a thinning cut of a woodlot should be considered as a part of decision-making about the appropriateness of an agricultural use. Some of these disposal questions are addressed in existing policies or directives and may also be left up to the discretion of the Superintendent (see 36CFR 1) Also, see Special Directive 82-6 on dead and down wood and property management regulations concerning disposal of surplus property.Hazards
Many and varied hazards are inherent in agricultural uses. These range from tree hazards in woodlots and orchards to hazards associated with use of agricultural machinery or pesticides and the handling of livestock. The need to provide a safe environment for visitors, adjacent landowners, and employees, as well as to minimize potential tort liability, should be considered in any decision about the appropriateness of an agricultural use.Wetlands and Other Sensitive Areas
Agricultural activities within a park should not impinge upon wetland protection. All agricultural projects should be in compliance with state and federal laws while being designed to protect and/or enhance riparian vegetation and the natural buffers they create. These vegetative buffers can serve as habitat and travel corridors for area wildlife while stabilizing the soils in and near critical wet areas. Reference should be made to Natural Resource Conservation Service soils maps, U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, or the Army Corps of Engineers wetlands maps, and other references to help identify wetlands. Agriculture should also be excluded from habitat of threatened or endangered species and other sensitive areas. Although it might achieve landscape management objectives in the short run, such disruption could result in long-term impacts that are inconsistent with NPS mandates. In this Reference Manual, see Freshwater Resources Management.Soil Fertility
Soil fertility has been commonly maintained in an agricultural setting by the addition of large quantities of chemical fertilizers to the soil. Modern sustainable farming practices, which use specifically timed application of minerals needed by the soil and careful management of soil structure, have achieved high soil fertility levels and abundant crop yields while greatly decreasing the size and number of fertilizer applications. Although not officially tracked through the NPS IPM process, soil fertility management efforts, including the application of fertilizers, should be carefully documented in approved agricultural management plans. Poorly planned applications of fertilizers within a park can compromise critical surface and subsurface resources, including archeological, floral, faunal, and aquatic resources. Fertilizer/pesticide mixes may not be used without approval through the NPS pesticide use approval process. Organically based fertilizers such as livestock manure and municipal and industrial sludge or compost may be used only when available and where chemical testing shows these materials to be free of toxins such as heavy metals. In every case, managers must be sure that application rates are based on soil fertility needs and not on waste disposal needs of suppliers. All soils should be tested annually for nutrient levels. The purpose of fertilization should not be to replace, pound for pound, every nutrient exported from the site. Soils contain an overabundance of some nutrients and are deficient in of others. It is futile to replace overabundant nutrients while allowing deficiencies to remain. Soil testing will ensure that the limited funds available for fertilizers are used to correct deficiencies.
Historic practices, especially when in keeping with NPS objectives, should be detailed in management plans.Implementation of Agricultural Uses
Agricultural uses occurring in parks are implemented by three means: special use permits, leasing agreements, and NPS operations. Because agricultural activity occurring under either of the first two means can result in economic returns to the permittee, the NPS should ensure that all interested parties are informed when permits are available and given the opportunity to apply for permits. The park should publish a formal notice in local newspapers and extension agents' newsletters, provide a formal application procedure, publicize the selection criteria, and document the decision process. All notifications of available permits should also include a clear explanation of NPS policies, procedures, and limitations that might alter routine land management efforts of the potential permittee.
Special Use Permits
Special use permits, issued in accordance with the policy established by DO/RM 53 Special Park Uses are perhaps the most frequently used method of implementing agricultural uses. The Special Park Uses Reference Manual should be consulted for further guidance concerning special use permits for agricultural uses. A park must develop a site-specific management plan for each parcel to be let under a special use permit. The plan should be developed with the Natural Resources Conservation Service and should identify the objectives of the parcel based on a cultural landscape report or other documentation.
Agricultural uses accomplished through a lease must be in compliance with the provisions of 16 U. S. C. 1a2(k), 16 U. S. C. 460l-22(a), 16 U. S. C. 470h-3, and 36 CFR 18. An agricultural lease may also be used when agricultural activities or practices are used as an interpretive tool or for an exhibit. In these cases, the provisions of 16 U. S. C. 1(a)(2)(g) could apply. All agricultural leases should include an agricultural use guide that clearly and specifically sets forth the responsibilities of the lessee and the NPS.
Agriculture can be used directly and/or as an indirect tool for accomplishing NPS operational goals. These operational goals may be accomplished directly through programs such as living history farms and open space management or indirectly by allowing employee and community gardens within the park. In situations where large-scale farming is needed to maintain the historic character and features of a park's landscape or to maintain large blocks of open space, multi-year leases or special use permits can be established with area farmers to accomplish the work (see Special Use Permits, above). If farmers are not available in the area or prove to be uninterested in conducting agricultural operations for economic or other reasons, park personnel may carry out the needed agricultural activities.
Length of Tenure
Farmers provide the highest levels of stewardship to lands when they have a long-term interest in those lands. For example, farmers can be unwilling to plant legumes, a low value nitrogen fixing crop, unless they are allowed to follow the legumes with several years of row crops that will capture the nitrogen produced by the legumes. Therefore, permits and leases should be written for the longest possible period of time. Tenure agreements should contain performance standards and should include the criteria that will be used to assess renewals.Roles and Responsibilities
The Director of the National Park Service establishes and approves servicewide resource policies and standards. The Director is ultimately responsible for establishing programs that conserve resources unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations and for ensuring that such programs are in compliance with directives, policies, and laws.The Associate Director, Natural Resource Stewardship and Science (ADNRSS), has functional authority, often through a subordinate division or office, for developing agricultural policies and standards for the Director's approval; providing policy oversight of NPS natural resource programs, including evaluating the results of field performance in complying with directives, policies, and laws; providing direct assistance to parks in specific program areas; and administering natural resource programs for which the ADNRSS has direct authority.Natural Resource Stewardship and Science divisions exercise the Associate Director's responsibility by administering and providing technical information on specific natural resource programs, including those that provide direct assistance to parks in carrying out natural resource activities and in interpreting natural resource policies, regulations, and guidance; formulating servicewide natural resource standards, policies, and regulations; developing and promulgating methods, procedures, and guidelines to help parks conduct effective natural resource programs; and carrying out functional oversight within assigned program areas. The regional director, through and with the assistance of an assistant or associate regional director, is responsible for ensuring that natural resource programs within the region are uniformly implemented in compliance with directives, policies, and law; and identifying regional coordinators and contacts for specific program areas, where required, who can provide information and data about park natural resources and natural resource programs to the Washington Office. Support office natural resource staff and regional resource program coordinators have responsibility for assisting parks in needs identification; data collection and analysis; planning, program, and project development; and providing advice on scientific and natural resource management issues. In addition, support office and regional staff are responsible for providing the parks with information on soil management, integrated pest management, cultural landscape management, aquatic and terrestrial resource protection, and vegetation management. Cultural anthropologists from support and/or regional office cultural resource staff with expertise in ethnography are responsible for systematic consultations with Native Americans and other traditionally associated groups, for ethnographic studies of resource use, and for inventorying natural as well as cultural resources with ethnographic value. These specialists assist parks in the identification of relevant groups with traditional associations to parks and knowledge of park resources and their uses for agricultural or other purposes, development and implementation of interviews, and the preparation and monitoring of ethnographic contracts. The superintendent is responsible for understanding the park's natural resources and their conditions. The superintendent is responsible for establishing and managing park resource programs and ensuring that they comply with all pertinent directives, policies, orders, and laws. The superintendent has the final responsibility to ensure that all agricultural use and agricultural landscape management efforts proposed for implementation within the park have been thoroughly reviewed and revised to comply with park management goals. The superintendent is also responsible for the proper implementation of all agricultural use activities within the park. The park natural and cultural resource managers, on behalf of the superintendent, working with park maintenance, interpreters, and ethnographers, carry out needs assessments and planning and conduct operational natural resource management activities in compliance with all pertinent directives, orders, policies, and laws. The resource managers keep the superintendent informed on all aspects of the agricultural use activities within the park. Park resource managers establish goals based on the objectives identified by superintendents in systematic consultation with members of social groups traditionally associated with the park and its agricultural practices, develop action plans that identify strategies to accomplish these goals, and develop specific methods and techniques to implement the strategies identified. These managers ensure that all projects utilizing agricultural uses within the park are carried out in a manner such that all natural and cultural resources within the project site are preserved.Field personnel, including maintenance staff, rangers, interpreters, and cultural and natural resource specialists, apply and implement methods and techniques to accomplish established goals and objectives.
Facility managers and administrative officers review the work of cultural and natural resource managers and interpreters for practicality (e. g., construction problems, future maintenance problems, contracting requirements, personnel rules).References
Firth, Ian J.W. 1985. Biotic cultural resources: Management considerations for historic districts in the national park system, Southeast Region. NPS Research/Resources Management Report SER-82. Fowler, Catherine W., and Molly Dufort, Mary Rusco, and the Historic Preservation Committee, Timbisha Shoshone Tribe. 1995. Residence without reservation: Ethnographic overview and traditional use study. Death Valley National Park, California: National Park Service. Melinck, Robert. 1984. Cultural landscapes: Rural historic districts in the national park system. Washington, D. C.: U. S. Govt. Printing Office. Parish, Steven. 1996. In praise of sweet corn: Contemporary farming at Minuteman National Historical Park. Boston: North Atlantic Regional Office, National Park Service.
Westmacott, Richard. 1999. Managing cultural landscapes: Agriculture in the national parks. Washington, DC: USDI, NPS, Cultural Resources, Park Historic Structures and Cultural Landscapes Program.Agricultural Uses Table of Contents | RM#77 Table of Contents