By Secretary Tom Vilsack
On Earth Day’s 40th anniversary, Americans across the country will be taking time out of their busy lives to help improve the environment, and USDA is joining the effort. From the mall in Washington DC, to the sands of New Mexico and plains of North Dakota, USDA employees are joining local residents at over 100 Earth Day events designed to encourage Americans across the country to take action.
At USDA, we are dedicating Earth Day 2010 to improving water quality. With that theme in mind, if you are in the area of the National Mall on April 22, come to the People’s Garden where 17 USDA agencies and offices will hold our second annual Earth Day festival. This festival is open to the public to educate folks about the role USDA plays in improving water quality and water conservation. There will be live music – and a host of educational activities to see and do including: a truck farm, an on-site working water system, water quality demonstrations, green roofs, and planting activities. Among the featured speakers will be Dave White, Chief of the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).
However, if you’re not in the Washington DC area, see if you can join us in one of the other USDA-sponsored events around the country, many of them open for participation by volunteers. For instance, in Ohio, NRCS and the Farm Service Agency will join together to enroll 100,000 acres into the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program. The Forest Service will host 50 events alone, including one involving 400 students in the Tongass National Forest in Alaska. Rural Development staff will join REI in a cleanup of the Monongahela River near Pittsburgh. For a complete list of the events and activities, along with a message from President Obama on the importance of Earth Day, go to: http://www.whitehouse.gov/earthday.
Many of these events will also provide an opportunity to reflect on the environmental benefits we rarely appreciate. Many Americans don’t know the valuable benefits that landscapes like forests, grasslands and farmlands bring to their daily lives. Our National Forests and Grasslands alone provide nearly 20% of the nation’s water supply. And tens of millions of Americans rely on water that comes from our working lands: our farms, ranches and privately-owned forests.
Working to ensure that our nation’s water resources, forests, and private working lands are conserved for the next generation is a top priority for USDA. Our U.S. Forest Service works to care for the 193 million acres of land with which they are entrusted. And with the help of USDA programs, America’s farmers, ranchers and forest owners have embraced their role as stewards of our natural resources. They have implemented conservation practices on tens of millions of acres across the nation to provide us with clean air to breath and water to drink, to improve and maintain wildlife habitats, and to capture carbon to combat global warming.
On Earth Day, I know that millions of Americans are taking individual responsibility for the health of our environment. And I know that this year – and for decades to come – USDA will be there to help them in that effort.
This constructed wetland near Jackson, Wyoming provides habitat for fish and other wildlife.