NB_190_21_4 - NB 190-21-4 ES – The release of VGS Version 5 software
NB 190-21-4 ES – The release of VGS Version 5 software
National Bulletin: 190-21-4  Date: November 19, 2020
Subject: ES – The release of VGS Version 5 software 

Purpose.  To notify the agency of the release of the VGS data system software version 5.0 for use on NRCS devices.  
Expiration Date.  September 30, 2020
Background.  Through intra- and inter-agency coordination with NRCS Resource Assessment Branch (CEAP-Grazing Lands), NRCS Ecological Sciences Division, U.S. Forest Service, USDA-Agricultural Research Service, and the University of Arizona, version 5 of the VGS data system is now CCE-approved for installation and use on NRCS devices. This includes desktops, laptops, and tablets that run on the Windows operating system.

Explanation.  VGS is a data system designed for both field data collectors and data managers. It offers incredible ease-of-use, with pre-loaded standard protocols supported by NRCS, ARS, USFS and others. The Resource Assessment Branch (CEAP-Grazing Lands) and Ecological Sciences Division conduct several trainings per year on VGS use and capabilities, in coordination with the University of Arizona developers. VGS is a data system for any land use and handles both qualitative and quantitative data, photos, geocoordinates, supporting documents such as PDFs, and all plant data conforms to USDA PLANTS. VGS also performs background calculations so reports instantly display with results, and it has a comparison feature allowing quick evaluation of previous results to current results – both tabular and photographic comparisons.

A rather massive upgrade to the current VGS 4.3 has just been CCE-approved. The new version, VGS 5.0, is available for installation on Windows operating systems.

The upgrade can be installed via your “Software Center” on desktops or laptops. For installation on tablets or other Windows-based mobile devices, you may need to submit a ticket to request IT installation. In that event, please share this link with your IT support person.


This upgrade contains many field-based qualitative and quantitative inventory and monitoring protocols supported by NRCS, ARS, USFS and others. Some of those include: Interpreting Indicators of Rangeland Health; Pasture Condition Score; Stream Visual Assessment Protocol 2; double-sampling and weight-unit sampling for species production and composition; canopy and ground sampling methods including line point intercept, line intercept, frequency, density, and gap-intercept; habitat suitability methods such as Wildlife Habitat Evaluation Guides and Greater-Sage Grouse Habitat Assessment Framework, Soil Stability, Conservation Reserve Program Compliance, and much more.

Distribution. This directive is available on the NRCS Electronic Directives System Web site at http://policy.nrcs.usda.gov, while additional information on VGS is accessible through the University of Arizona VGS website at https://vgs.arizona.edu/. The direct download link from the VGS website can be found here: https://vgs.arizona.edu/download-category/usda-nrcs.  

Contact.  For further information, contact Loretta J. Metz, National CEAP-Grazing Land Component Leader, Resource Assessment Branch, at Loretta.Metz@usda.gov.     


Diane Gelburd                         Luis Tupas    

Deputy Chief                           Deputy Chief
Science and Technology           Soil Science and Resource Assessment


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