Ninety-four year old former Cheyenne River Sioux Tribal Council Member Marcella Le Beau celebrates the final stages of a major project underway to bring abundant and safe water to the Cheyenne River Reservation.
Over 20 years ago, Cheyenne River Sioux Tribal Council Member, Marcella Le Beau had a vision for her community. She was part of the initial planning process to bring abundant, safe drinking water to her tribe in north central South Dakota. It has been a multi-year undertaking beginning with a new water intake on the Missouri River. Today, the second phase is underway to increase the undersized water treatment plant. On Earth Day last week, I had the honor of gathering with Marcella, Senator Tim Johnson, and others on the ground where the new plant and trunk line from the Missouri River will be built.
“It is a momentous day for our Cheyenne River Sioux family,” Marcella told me, “We have worked a very long time, with many dedicated people involved, to make this happen.”
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The Nelson family worked with USDA to repair and enhance a wetland with a conservation easement.
The Conservation Easement boundary on the Nelson ranch.
Born in Tacoma, Wash., Thomas “Tom” Nelson remembers spending his summers at his parents’ cabin in Swan Valley, Mont. “My mom would load us all up in the car or on the train and head over,” Tom said. He recalls how excited he was to hear his mom say, “go play!”
“And, boy did we,” he said. “We would pull some nice fish out of the beaver pond on Barber Creek for breakfast and just run freely. That was exciting for city kids.”
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Rural Americans have always had a strong connection to the land. Since 2009 alone, more than 500,000 farmers, ranchers and rural land owners across the country have embarked on record conservation projects with USDA as a partner. This week, USDA built on those efforts by announcing two new conservation programs that provide producers with even stronger tools to protect land and water resources across rural America.
The Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) and the Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program (VPA-HIP) were both established under the 2014 Farm Bill. ACEP, which streamlines several existing USDA easement programs, makes available $366 million per year to a variety of public and private partners for conservation easements. The easements provided through ACEP help ensure the long-term viability of our food supply by preventing conversion of productive lands to non-agricultural use, while simultaneously protecting critical wetland resources.
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As the school year begins to wind down, let’s take time to acknowledge the unsung heroes in our nation’s school cafeterias. School nutrition employees contribute greatly to a child’s short- and long-term health and academic success, but their contributions often go without recognition. Today is School Lunch Hero Day, and next week (May 5-9) is School Nutrition Employee Week. Let’s take this opportunity to extend our thanks for all that school nutrition employees do to support our children throughout the entire school year.
School nutrition employees often arrive well before the school buses begin rolling in, working to ensure that students have access to a healthy breakfast to start the school day. Their commitment to these early mornings is invaluable, as we know that breakfast plays a key role in a child’s ability to learn. Before the breakfast period ends, staff members are often doing double duty as they begin preparations for the lunch meal. They’re on their feet, working hard to ensure that our school children receive healthy and tasty meals to fuel their day.
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