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Faces of the Forest Celebrates Mark Twery

Mark Twery, a supervisory research forester on the Northern Research Station

Mark Twery, a supervisory research forester on the Northern Research Station

How does a former dancer and theater technician end up in a career in forestry? Meet Mark Twery, a supervisory research forester on the Northern Research Station in Burlington, Vt., who is not only all of the above, but loves his unique job that incorporates forestry with dance. Read more »

Laughing All the Way to the Seed Bank

Mahogany seeds, one of the species the Dominican Republic is trying to reforest.  (Photo courtesy of Toby Bloom, U.S. Forest Service)

Mahogany seeds, one of the species the Dominican Republic is trying to reforest. (Photo courtesy of Toby Bloom, U.S. Forest Service)

Everyone wants to have a full bank account — including bank accounts that hold seeds.

The U.S. Forest Service recently held a workshop with the Dominican Republic Ministry of Environmental and Natural Resources in Dry Branch, Ga., focusing on ways to increase the capacity to develop and maintain a seed bank for reforestation in the Dominican Republic.

The workshop discussed methods and approaches to compiling the seeds and best practices for preservation.  The workshop included seed biology and procedures that contribute towards the success of the bank.  Dry Branch is the home of the USFS National Seed Laboratory. Participants of the workshop will manage the Nigua Seed Bank in the Dominican Republic.  Official protocols for seed purity throughout the Dominican Republic were drafted for the new seed bank based on workshop outcomes.

Technical expertise was provided by the Forest Service with the help of an agreement with the US Agency for International Development.  Through the agreement, the Forest Service aids in equipment administration as well as the training of staff and facility management.

According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, the Dominican Republic enacted the Forestry Action Plan in 1991 that established the goal of becoming a self-sufficient timber and fuelwood producer by 2016.  The seed laboratory work will contribute to the achievement of this goal and the forestry improvements that the nation plans to make towards reforestation.

In November, an unprecedented Presidential Decree was passed to solidify the Government’s commitment to biological diversity and protected area habitat conservation.  The seed bank workshop contributed to these goals.

For more information on these and other projects, take a look at the U.S. Forest Service International Programs website.

Thanks to the Forest Service, A Tool to Lessen Bat Fatalities at Wind Energy Facilities

With the literal rise of wind energy facilities across the country in recent years, migratory bats have been affected and can die in the huge turbines designed to catch the wind—and, unintentionally, winged creatures that fly at night.

The new interactive tool referred to as the Bat Occupancy Probabilities at a Wind Energy Facility was developed by researchers from the U.S. Forest Service’s Pacific Southwest Research Station. It is designed to help wind energy facility operators make informed decisions on efficient ways to reduce impacts on migratory bats. Read more »

Forest Service Partners with Washington State Mountain bike Filmmakers

The U.S. Forest Service is tapping into its creative side to address illegal trail building on public lands by announcing an official partnership with a newly released mountain bike documentary.

The hour-long documentary, entitled “PEDAL-DRIVEN: a bikeumentary,” delves into the escalating conflict between mountain bikers hungry to ride and the federal land managers charged with protecting public lands. The growing trend of rogue trail building on public lands has become a national and international issue in recent years due in part to advancements in bicycle technology. Read more »

Supporting Those Who Go Green With a New Energy Efficiency Initiative

Reducing rental housing operating expenses, preserving the environment and promoting local energy sources is a priority for USDA Rural Development, demonstrated by green-energy initiatives like the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) and the Business and Industry Guaranteed Loan Program. Rural Development is now offering the Multi-Family Housing Energy Efficiency Initiative as part of the existing application process for Section 515 Rural Rental Housing Program for New Construction, Section 514 Farm Labor Housing Loans and Section 516 Farm Labor Housing Grants for Off-Farm Housing, Section 522 Housing Preservation Grants, and Sections 514, 515 and 516 Multi-Family Housing Revitalization Demonstration Programs.  This new initiative aims to promote development projects that make an effort to reduce energy use, reduce energy required from the energy grid supply, have little or no net emission of greenhouse gasses, and are economically viable.

The Energy Efficiency Initiative focuses on three areas: energy conservation, energy generation, and green property management.  Points are given to applicants for energy efficiency certifications, use of energy efficient building materials and design strategies, generation of energy on site, and commitments to energy efficient post-construction operation and maintenance.  Through administration of this initiative combined with existing Rural Development programs, USDA hopes to reduce the need for outside energy sources, reduce energy costs, promote the economy, and ultimately secure a better environment for future generations. Read more »

How the Farm Business Has Changed

Two tractors plant in field. Research shows that two major farm inputs – land and labor – decreased over time, while output rose. (Photo courtesy of Shutterstock)

Two tractors plant in field. Research shows that two major farm inputs – land and labor – decreased over time, while output rose. (Photo courtesy of Shutterstock)

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

Over a relatively short time period, innovations in farms’ production practices, risk management, and business arrangements have allowed U.S. farmers to greatly increase their output without raising total input use.  These changes accompanied a shift in production to larger farms.  Drawing on a variety of data sources, the Economic Research Service recently examined the changes in farming during a 25-year period that ended with the most recent census of agriculture. Read more »