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Looking for a Great Valentine’s Date? Try U.S. Forests

U.S. Forest Service ski ranger Nancy McNab talks about safety before taking a group skiing as part of the Arapahoe National Forest’s Ski with a Ranger program. (U.S. Forest Service)

U.S. Forest Service ski ranger Nancy McNab talks about safety before taking a group skiing as part of the Arapahoe National Forest’s Ski with a Ranger program. (U.S. Forest Service)

Finding unique gifts for Valentine’s Day just got a whole lot easier. With 122 ski areas, and thousands of miles of trails, riv­­­ers and streams, the U.S. Forest Service has plenty of ideas for a special outing with your l­­­oved one.

Show some warmth by sweeping your loved one away from colder climates to Ocala National Forest in Florida where temperatures are likely to be in the upper 60s or low 70s. Ocala has more than 27 first-magnitude springs, and forest visitors have long enjoyed Juniper Springs. There are hundreds of tiny bubbling springs, and underground water gushes out of crevices in the earth beneath a dense canopy of palms and oaks. The area is truly an oasis that is bound to warm hearts. It’s a popular place, so book your reservations at Recreation.gov. Read more »

The Matrix Helps Teachers Bring Ag to the Classroom

Students learn about agriculture by using materials available online through the Ag in the Classroom’s Matrix. (iStock image)

Students learn about agriculture by using materials available online through the Ag in the Classroom’s Matrix. (iStock image)

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 profile.

The Matrix is in a classroom near you – not the 1999 hit movie, but a blockbuster nonetheless.

The National Agricultural Literacy Curriculum Matrix is a new approach to grow agricultural literacy among K-12 students.  The Matrix, part of the National Agriculture in the Classroom’s (AITC) website, is an online collection of educational resources that are relevant, engaging, and designed to meet the educational requirements and agricultural literacy outcomes for formal educators. Read more »

Surveyors Learn to Measure Snow, Prepare for Risks in Remote Mountains

Jeff Anderson, snow survey director for NRCS in Nevada, shows the school’s students how to read snow-measuring instruments. Dan Martyn and Nichole Bolton learn the ropes. NRCS photo by Anita Brown.

Jeff Anderson, snow survey director for NRCS in Nevada, shows the school’s students how to read snow-measuring instruments. Dan Martyn and Nichole Bolton learn the ropes. NRCS photo by Anita Brown.

If you live in the western United States and you’re sipping a glass of water, irrigating your crops, lighting your home with hydrological-sourced energy, or enjoy skiing or fishing, you’re probably using information made available from USDA’s snow survey program.

Snow provides 50 to 80 percent of the western water supply and while many agencies, utilities, Tribes and others have a role in snow surveys, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) leads efforts to make sure all the players use accurate and consistent methods and come home safely. NRCS just released its February forecast. Read more »

USDA Supports California’s Efforts to Improve the Nutrition and Health of Low-Income Pregnant Women, New Mothers, Infants and Young Children; Lifts Ban on Stores

Woman with child at supermarket.

California WIC participants now have greater access to healthy foods as FNS ensures that vendors are efficiently administering the program.

This month, nearly 1.4 million women, infants and children in California have greater access to the healthy foods provided through the state’s Women Infants and Children (WIC) Program.

In 2012, USDA notified the California Department of Public Health that it must continue a self-imposed moratorium on the authorization of stores to accept WIC. The moratorium was due to concerns related to the oversight of authorized WIC vendors in the state and rising costs. Read more »

Oklahoma Ranchers’ Unflinching Courage Helps Them Thrive Despite Adversity

Oklahoma ranchers Julie and Robert Carr credit good old fashioned determination and a USDA Farm Service Agency loan with making it through one of the worst droughts to hit the state.

Oklahoma ranchers Julie and Robert Carr credit good old fashioned determination and a USDA Farm Service Agency loan with making it through one of the worst droughts to hit the state.

Since 2011, Julie Carr and her husband Robert slowly watched everything they worked for dry up and wither away.

Julie calls those days lemonade days — long stretches of hardship where life is throwing nothing but lemons and by the end of the day she has made lemonade. But those days were anything but sweet.

“We literally started with nothing,” said Julie, recalling how she and Robert left Texas 30 years ago and moved to Oklahoma just to buy a ranch. “We built this [business] cow by cow and calf by calf.” Read more »

New Farm Bill Program to Help Protect Longleaf’s Legacy for Future Generations

Longleaf Pine forest (photo by William D. Boyer, U.S. Forest Service)

Longleaf Pine forest (photo by William D. Boyer, U.S. Forest Service)

As a kid, I spent Christmas vacations with my family and my grandfather in the longleaf pine forests of South Carolina.  While my grandfather and father (and later me) were quail hunters, you don’t have to be a sportsman or a sportswoman to appreciate longleaf pine.  Longleaf forests are home to countless wildlife species, a diversity of plants, and provide valuable wood products, such as heart-pine floors that are cherished across the South.  Longleaf forests once covered some 90 million acres along the Southeast coastal plain, but over the past two centuries, development, conversion, ill-planned timbering, and fire suppression have reduced longleaf’s range to a mere sliver of its former extent.

USDA and our many conservation partners are working to restore longleaf forests, and we’ve seen significant progress in the recent years. Now, a new Farm Bill program, the Regional Conservation Partnership Program, or RCPP, is providing additional support to the effort. Read more »