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USDA Rural Development Youths in Washington State Present Tree to City of Westport on Earth Day

Story by Student Reporter Jessi Southworth

This year USDA Rural Development highlighted The City of Westport’s upgrades for their outdated Wastewater Treatment Facility. USDA will be giving 3.9 million dollars in a loan through their Waste & Environmental Program; this will be used for the Wastewater Treatment Facility (WWTF) Renovation Project. This one was constructed in 1964, was expanded in 1974, and was modified several times with the newest in 1996. It is close to the end of its usefulness and is not meeting the processing requirements. The total cost of this whole project is $4,785,870.00.

The event started with The City of Westport’s Mayor Michael Bruce, who spoke of on the importance of partnership. And Rural Development brought a tree to the city to plant in recognition of its efforts to maintain and improve the environment. USDA bought a Crimson Kind Maple tree locally from a garden center in the community of Grayland. This year though, Earth Day was also National ‘Take Your Daughters and Sons to Work Day’ and Rural Development Washington used this situation to show their children and grandchildren how they can work every day to protect and preserve the environment.

Presenting the tree to Westport on behalf of the agency were the children of USDA Rural Development Washington State employees, including: Joel Garcia (11), Julianna Garcia (9), and K’Misha Divens (9). Accepting the tree on behalf of the city were National Resources class students from Ocosta Jr./Sr. High School, including Conner Graham, Tannija Smith, Trevor Sweet, Joshua Edwards, Jessica Beyers, and Shayla Trammell. After the tree presentation, the city offered tours of the Wastewater Treatment Facility before everyone went over to the Westport Maritime Museum for a cake reception.

“The USDA Earth Day event in Westport was an outstanding success,” said Mayor Bruce. “On behalf of the City of Westport, I would like to thank all the USDA Rural Development representatives (and children) for participating in this special Earth Day event.”

(Jessi Southworth is the daughter of Becki Southworth, Washington State USDA Multi-Family Housing Specialist)

City of Westport Mayor Michael Bruce accepts a funding certificate representing a $3.9 million loan through USDA Rural Development's Waste and Environmental Program which will be used for the city's Wastewter Treatment Facility Renovation Project.
City of Westport Mayor Michael Bruce accepts a funding certificate representing a $3.9 million loan through USDA Rural Development’s Waste and Environmental Program which will be used for the city’s Wastewater Treatment Facility Renovation Project.

USDA Rural Development youth - Joel Garcia, K'Misha Divens, and Julianna Garcia - present a Crimson King Maple to the City of Westport in commemoration of Earth Day for the City's work to upgrade and improve their wastewater treatment facility.USDA Rural Development youth – Joel Garcia, K’Misha Divens, and Julianna Garcia – present a Crimson King Maple to the City of Westport in commemoration of Earth Day for the City’s work to upgrade and improve their wastewater treatment facility.

USDA Forest Service Challenge Cost-Share Program Supports Goals of Numerous Childhood Initiatives

By Deidra McGee, US Forest Service Public Affairs Specialist

The announcement of the More Kids in the Woods (MKIW) challenge cost-share program highlights  the multiple outcomes of many USDA Forest Service programs not only within the Agency, but across the Department and reaching to White House initiatives.

The Forest Service selected 21 MKIW projects from field units across the country that foster environmental awareness and stewardship among young people. The projects such as summer camps, outdoor labs, nature caching, wilderness expeditions and more will help kids make the connection between healthy forests, healthy communities and their own healthy lifestyles; while encouraging them to seek careers in conservation and resource management.

The initiative to engage and involve MKIW has numerous partners, cooperators, and an equal number of overlapping features and benefits to other initiatives across the country. The MKIW goals are echoed in efforts from the White House to the forests of Alabama. There the state has initialed Youth Taking Action, or YTA, aimed at curbing childhood obesity.

“Blending physical activity with conservation and environmental ideas will be a great venue for students to not only enjoy the great outdoors, but develop an ownership in the environment for future generations of people, plants, and critters!” Sallie Chastain; Coordinator, Community Education for Talladega (Alabama) County Schools.

This effort, mirroring First Lady Michelle Obama’s own focus, capitalizes not only on MKIW projects, but incorporates other resources like lessons and teacher materials from the Project Learning Tree curriculum (PLT). Local state officials agree that these benefits multiply the effectiveness of related programs.

“The Project Learning Tree mission is to use the forest as a “window” on the world to increase students’ understanding of our environment; stimulate students’ critical and creative thinking; develop students’ ability to make informed decisions on environmental issues; and instill in students the commitment to take responsible action on behalf of the environment.” Chris Erwin; Director of Education and Outreach, Alabama Forestry Association

This is the fourth year the Forest Service has matched funds and in-kind contributions from partners for “More Kids in the Woods”.  Partners include local, state, and federal agencies and American Indian tribes. Project activities include summer camps, after-school programs, and wilderness expeditions. The challenge-cost share will serve more than 15,000 children throughout the nation, including under-served and urban youth.

For more information on this year’s 21 MKIW projects, go to

Strengthening the Rural Economy

Cross-Posted from the White House Blog.

Rural areas are home to about 50 million Americans and are an essential part of the overall economy.  As the President embarks on the next stops on the White House to Main Street Tour in Illinois, Iowa, and Missouri, the CEA today released a report that surveys the current state of rural America and describes the Obama Administration’s policies for strengthening the rural economy.  The map below shows the distribution of rural counties across the county. Read more »

Earth Day Marked by a Tree Planting and Funding Announcement to Boost Water Quality of a Vermont River

Molly Lambert, Vermont State Director for USDA Rural Development, was joined by Jenny Nelson from U.S. Senator Bernie Sander’s Office, State Officials, and Lyndon Town Officials for an Earth Day tree planting celebration and to announce the award of a USDA Rural Development Water and Environmental Program grant to upgrade the local wastewater treatment plant. Read more »