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Defying Expectations, Fighting Challenges and Fighting Fires

Bequi Livingston, Smokey Bear Hotshot Crew, U.S. Forest Service

Bequi Livingston, Smokey Bear Hotshot Crew, U.S. Forest Service

When she was in high school, Bequi Livingston read a book about firefighting and was quickly intrigued. Little did she know that she would one day become one of the U.S. Forest Service’s pioneer women in wildland firefighting and fight fires for nearly 20 years.

After graduating from college, an article in her local newspaper caught her eye. The article was about the Young Adult Conservation Corps encouraging people to apply for its fire crew on the Smokey Ranger District. Livingston was accepted, but when she excitedly reported to work on her first day on the Lincoln National Forest, her office manager was surprised to meet a woman. Read more »

The Energy Behind Alternative Energy

The Biomass Crop Assistance Program, or BCAP, is still in its infancy, but its potential success has producers and businesses wanting more.

“We have people on a waiting list,” said Tim Wooldridge, Arkansas project manager with MFA Oil Biomass. MFA was selected by USDA to manage three of nine project areas in fiscal year 2011. Each project area was awarded federal funding to provide incentives to farmers to grow non-food crops that can be processed into biofuels. “Our initial target in the Arkansas project was 5,000 acres, which we surpassed in signing up 6,588 acres. We now have 1,500 acres on a waitlist. We could easily get another 6,000.” Read more »

Conservation That Works

Cross posted from the White House Council on Environmental Quality blog:

I was recently in Atlanta, Georgia to speak at the North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference about Working Lands for Wildlife, a new effort to focus both conservation dollars and wildlife management expertise on the recovery of seven at-risk, threatened or endangered wildlife species. This unique approach to conservation concentrates federal resources on private working lands—home to a majority of candidate and listed species under the Endangered Species Act. Working Lands for Wildlife was developed by the Department of Agriculture and the Department of the Interior through their membership in the White House Rural Council.

Working with farmers, ranchers and forest landowners is critical to President Obama’s vision of an economy built to last, one where rural communities provide clean air, clean water and wildlife habitat to generate economic opportunities for outdoor recreation and jobs, while protecting farm and ranch traditions. Working Lands for Wildlife demonstrates the President’s focus on the rural economy and his commitment to keep working lands working. Read more »

You Asked, We Answered: FAQs About the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Compass

It’s been a little over two weeks since we launched the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Compass, which includes a multi-media PDF narrative and an accompanying interactive map. Together, they’re designed to help you navigate USDA’s grant and loan programs and learn how USDA supports the development of local and regional food systems. You’ll hear about people across the country putting these resources to work. We hope you’ll be inspired and perhaps get some new ideas to try out on your farm or ranch or in your community.

We never intended to launch the KYF Compass and call it a day. This is just the beginning of what we hope will be a long-term conversation about new opportunities in local and regional food. We’ve reached out to you through a webinar, over Twitter, in our blog and in events with stakeholders to hear your feedback and ideas. And you’ve certainly kept up your end of the conversation! Read more »

USDA Official Marks State Tribal Relations Day in South Dakota

South Dakota USDA Rural Development State Director Elsie Meeks and J.R. LaPlante, Secretary of Tribal Relations for the state of South Dakota mark State Tribal Relations Day at the South Dakota State Capitol.

South Dakota USDA Rural Development State Director Elsie Meeks and J.R. LaPlante, Secretary of Tribal Relations for the state of South Dakota mark State Tribal Relations Day at the South Dakota State Capitol.

The South Dakota Department of Tribal Relations hosted State Tribal Relations Day at the South Dakota Capitol on Monday, March 19, 2012.  South Dakota USDA Rural Development State Director Elsie Meeks took part in the day; attending the Tribal Listening Session and ceremony.  Meeks was impressed by all of the tribal representatives as well as the students that attended from across the state.  “The listening session was an important part of the day with government to government interaction where ideas and solutions were shared.” Read more »

Learn How to Play Smart Against Spreading Invasive Species

As spring awakens across the country, outdoor recreation enthusiasts are beginning to look again for opportunities to enjoy the great outdoors. America’s spectacular national forests and national grasslands provide some of the greatest opportunities for outdoor recreation in the world.

The emerald ash borer, highly destructive to ash trees, is one of the most destructive non-native insects in the U.S. Photo credit:  Invasive.org

The emerald ash borer, highly destructive to ash trees, is one of the most destructive non-native insects in the U.S. Photo credit: Invasive.org

But these beautiful and inspiring natural places are also under attack from hundreds of invasive plants, animals and pathogens. These exotic invaders disrupt natural ecological balance and can negatively impact the quality of outdoor recreation experiences. Invasives can threaten human health and safety and possibly reduce access to some areas. Read more »