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Ranchers Using NRCS Conservation Practices Boost Prairie Chicken Occupancy

Lesser prairie-chickens

Lesser prairie-chickens benefit from lands where a rancher is using prescribed grazing, according to a new report. Photo courtesy of Nick Richter.

Habitat conservation practices make a difference for lesser prairie-chickens. That’s the finding of a recent scientific study – the first part of a multi-year study – described in a new report from the Lesser Prairie-Chicken Initiative (LPCI).

LPCI, led by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), works with partner organizations and ranchers to improve habitat and address threats to the bird. Since 2010, more than 1 million acres of habitat have been restored on working lands. Read more »

European Grapevine Moth Cooperative Eradication Program: A Model for Fighting Future Invasive Species Threats

EGVM outreach sign in Napa County

EGVM outreach sign used in Napa County that they can happily now retire, since the invasive pest has been eradicated. Photo by Nelly Castro, Napa County Agricultural Commissioner’s Office.

I was thrilled to celebrate with key partners and contributors in Napa County, California, recently at an event to recognize the critical safeguarding accomplishment we achieved together, that of eradicating the invasive European grapevine moth (EGVM) from the United States.

Leaders from the USDA, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA), and the California County Agricultural Commissioners came together with growers and industry representatives, who found and implemented the right tools to safeguard California grapes. In front of these critical partners, I was proud to recognize the extraordinary individual and group contributions that made the eradication of EGVM possible. Read more »

Biosecurity Education and Compliance are Critical in Preventing Avian Influenza Outbreaks

Chicken infected with low pathogenic avian influenza

A chicken infected with low pathogenic avian influenza. Photo courtesy of Dr. Nathaniel Tablante

The December 2014 to June 2015 avian influenza outbreak was the largest animal health emergency in U.S. history. The virus contributed to the death of more than 48 million birds, either due to infection with the virus or depopulation to prevent additional spread.  The virus was introduced into the U.S. by wild migratory waterfowl and then spread from farm to farm in a number of ways.  This included farms sharing equipment, vehicles moving between farms without being cleaned or disinfected, employees moving between infected and non-infected farms, rodents and small wild birds reported inside some poultry houses, and feed stored outside or without appropriate biosecurity measures. The virus spread was also assisted by instances of noncompliance with industry-recommended biosecurity practices.

Fortunately, avian influenza poses little threat to human health and food safety. Human infections with avian influenza are rare and most often occur after direct contact with an infected bird. Avian influenza does, however, adversely affect food availability and the economy. If a single bird became infected with the highly pathogenic avian influenza virus during the 2014-15 outbreak, every bird in the same commercial poultry house – which contains an average of 30,000 birds – was depopulated. Read more »

Do It Yourself: Expert Help for Improving Bobwhite Habitat on Your Land

A northern bobwhite

The northern bobwhite is often referred to as an “edge” species, seeking habitat where crop fields intersect with woodlands, pastures and abandoned lands. NRCS photo by Stephen Kirkpatrick.

If you’re looking to save money around the house, you can find hundreds of helpful videos on a wide variety of “do it yourself” repair and remodeling projects. Social media and other online networking tools can put you in touch with experts to answer your questions along the way.

Well, wildlife habitat can be DIY, too. As a partner biologist with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), I work one-on-one with landowners in Virginia to help them make wildlife-friendly improvements to their property, specifically improvements that benefit the northern bobwhite and associated species. Read more »

Looking to the Future and Learning from the Past in our National Forests

A column of smoke rising from a forest fire

A massive column of smoke rises from a forest fire. Today’s rapidly changing conditions present challenges for forest managers when determining what plant species to replant after a disturbance like a wildland fire. Photo credit: US Forest Service

Forests are changing in ways they’ve never experienced before because today’s growing conditions are different from anything in the past. The climate is changing at an unprecedented rate, exotic diseases and pests are present, and landscapes are fragmented by human activity often occurring at the same time and place.

The current drought in California serves as a reminder and example that forests of the 21st century may not resemble those from the 20th century. When replanting a forest after disturbances, does it make sense to try to reestablish what was there before? Or, should we find re-plant material that might be more appropriate to current and future conditions of a changing environment? Read more »

Military Family Makes Healthy Eating a Priority: Meet Rocio and Her Family

Rocio's family

Rocio and her family sit down to enjoy a healthy dinner together. Eating meals together as a family is one of her MyPlate, MyWins healthy eating solutions.

Making healthy meal choices for your family, especially when you’re on the go like Rocio and her military family, can be rewarding and fun if you have the right tools.  The MyPlate, MyWins video: Meet Rocio features a real-life military family sharing their tips for success. Rocio shows how she and her husband teach their four boys the value of nutrition by preparing meals that feed their sons’ minds and bodies.

Rocio plans ahead and gets the kids involved in the dinner process.  Not only do they enjoy being involved in the meal preparation, but it helps them to know what they are eating, and teaches them the value of nutrition and eating together. Read more »