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USDA Researchers Working Together to Conserve Our Nation’s Resources

A blue heron on the Choptank River in Maryland, one of the benchmark watersheds that USDA researchers are evaluating as part of the Conservation Effects Assessment Project.

A blue heron on the Choptank River in Maryland, one of the benchmark watersheds that USDA researchers are evaluating as part of the Conservation Effects Assessment Project.

USDA researchers are working together to protect and conserve our beautiful nation and all of its majestic natural resources for generations to come.  As part of USDA’s Conservation Effects Assessment Project (CEAP), more than 60 USDA-Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists are working together to gain a better understanding of the role that agricultural conservation programs and practices play in achieving our nation’s environmental objectives of clean air and water, healthy soils and flourishing natural habitats.

USDA began the CEAP program in 2003 to study the environmental benefits of conservation practices implemented through 2002 Farm Bill programs.  As part of CEAP, ARS scientists are evaluating 14 watersheds across 12 ARS locations to provide the additional scientific basis for the CEAP National Assessment being led by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.  Those watersheds were selected in part to address specific concerns, like manure management on animal feeding operations, water use on irrigated cropland, drainage water management, wildlife habitat and riparian restoration. These watershed studies also should help develop performance measures for estimating soil, water and air quality, and perhaps other potential benefits for specific conservation practices. Read more »

USDA Provides Funds to Conserve Agricultural Lands

The Wilds’ 60-acre demonstration site showcases a variety of native grasses.

The Wilds’ 60-acre demonstration site showcases a variety of native grasses.

Yesterday, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Natural Resources Conservation Chief Jason Weller announced 33 Conservation Innovation Grants awarded to entities across the nation to develop and demonstrate cutting-edge ideas to accelerate private lands conservation.

As the chief said during a media call with the secretary, “The Conservation Innovation Grant program brings together the strength and innovation of the private and non-profit sectors, academia, producers and others to develop and test cutting-edge conservation tools and technologies and work side-by-side with producers to demonstrate how solutions work on the land.” Read more »

After September 11th, A U.S. Forester in Afghanistan

Alberto Moreno, a U.S. Forest Service supervisory forester, stands in the Spin Ghar Mountain range at the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan by the Khyber Pass. (Photo courtesy Alberto Moreno)

Alberto Moreno, a U.S. Forest Service supervisory forester, stands in the Spin Ghar Mountain range at the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan by the Khyber Pass. (Photo courtesy Alberto Moreno)

On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, sitting in a small Cessna about to go airborne, the pilot suddenly slowed the plane and aborted the takeoff. He said he had received orders that all flights had been grounded and that any airplanes that did not comply would be shot down by the Air Force.

The United States was under attack.

At the time, my job had been with the Arkansas Forest Inventory and Analysis survey program monitoring plots on the Mississippi Delta. I spent the rest of that day tracking my crews working in the field, and like the rest of the world, tried to comprehend the events as they unfolded. Read more »