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Native Seedlings to Return to Reforest Burned Areas

Gretchen Fitzgerald, forester on the San Juan National Forest in Colorado, checks the health of an eight-year-old ponderosa pine that has regenerated naturally on burned slopes west of Vallecito Reservoir. Some of the national forest where natural regeneration is lacking across the reservoir behind her will be replanted in 2015. (U.S. Forest Service/Ann Bond)

Gretchen Fitzgerald, forester on the San Juan National Forest in Colorado, checks the health of an eight-year-old ponderosa pine that has regenerated naturally on burned slopes west of Vallecito Reservoir. Some of the national forest where natural regeneration is lacking across the reservoir behind her will be replanted in 2015. (U.S. Forest Service/Ann Bond)

Decades ago, ripe cones were plucked from the tops of conifer trees in the San Juan National Forest and sent to Nebraska for storage in a U.S. Forest Service nursery.  This winter, tiny seeds from those cones have been sown in the nursery with the big mission of returning home to create new forests in southwestern Colorado.

Donations to the San Juan National Forest Plant-A-Tree Program will help return the little trees to their native environment in 2015, when 250 acres burned by the 72,000-acre Missionary Ridge Fire will be replanted.

“We’ll plant limber pine seedlings in the more rocky areas,” said San Juan National Forest Forester Gretchen Fitzgerald. “Douglas fir will be tucked into north- and east-facing slopes because they like cooler, moister conditions. Ponderosa pines can go just about anywhere; they’re very drought tolerant.” Read more »

USDA Helps Water Quality Trading Systems Thrive in the Chesapeake Bay Region

Staff members from the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay and the Maryland Forest Service advise a forest landowner on options for how to  participate in a water quality trading system.

Staff members from the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay and the Maryland Forest Service advise a forest landowner on options for how to participate in a water quality trading system.

Government agencies and organizations in Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia have been building water quality trading systems during the past few years to lower the cost of regulatory compliance with water quality laws.

These trading systems enable  farmers, ranchers and forest landowners in these Chesapeake Bay-area states to generate income by selling water quality credits to regulated entities like waste water treatment facilities and developers. As this market matures, people will be able to incorporate clean water into their overall management objectives more seamlessly.

The Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, with funding from a USDA Conservation Innovation Grant, is developing tools to make it easier for people who own or manage forests to offer up their forested land for possible water quality and other ecosystem service credits. The alliance is working to streamline the credit development process for water quality trading on forested land in the region. Read more »

2013: A Fine Year for Conservation

NRCS developed conservation plans for more than 43.8 million acres in 2013. These plans include a map of the land and a proposed set of conservation practices tailored to the farmer’s specific operation.

NRCS developed conservation plans for more than 43.8 million acres in 2013. These plans include a map of the land and a proposed set of conservation practices tailored to the farmer’s specific operation.

Good job, farmers and ranchers. As we begin 2014, let’s take a moment to reflect on 2013 with collective pride for conservation well done.

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service provides technical and financial assistance to help farmers, ranchers and forest landowners with voluntary conservation practices. These thousands of local, partnerships between NRCS and landowners across the United States add up to make a huge difference.

In cooperation with farmers and ranchers in 2013, NRCS: Read more »

Bringing New Markets to Puerto Rico’s Producers

AMS Commodity Procurement Financial Analyst Keven Valentin talks about contracting opportunities through the AMS Commodity Procurement Program.

AMS Commodity Procurement Financial Analyst Keven Valentin talks about contracting opportunities through the AMS Commodity Procurement Program.

In any business venture, the key to reaching a new market is starting with accurate and comprehensive information. For American agricultural producers and suppliers looking at USDA feeding programs as a potential market, having a clear understanding of the rules, regulations and requirements is the best start on the path to success. USDA encourages new businesses to participate by providing information through our websites, publications, and conferences. Recently, we attended Puerto Rico’s 2013 Market Expansion Conference to encourage new businesses to consider our programs.

My agency, the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), is part of a team of seven USDA agencies that attended this conference to strengthen Puerto Rico’s agriculture sector. Read more »

Enjoy Winter on a National Forest, but Don’t Become an Avalanche Statistic

Every snowmobile rider in avalanche country needs to carry rescue gear on their back, not on the machine. They should also know how to use the gear. (U.S. Forest Service National Avalanche Center)

Every snowmobile rider in avalanche country needs to carry rescue gear on their back, not on the machine. They should also know how to use the gear. (U.S. Forest Service National Avalanche Center)

It’s early into the winter sports season and already there are stories of avalanche victims on the nation’s slopes.

But there are some steps you can take to keep your name and those of your companions out of the statistics record.

The U.S. Forest Service is a partner in the Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month, an effort to encourage children and adults to take lessons to improve their skills. Knowing about avalanches is vital to your safety. Read more »

Shasta-Trinity National Forest Brings Christmas Cheer to Disadvantaged Youth

Ally Buccanero, Shasta College student and volunteer, demonstrates how to make a bird feeder using a large pine cone and peanut butter during Shasta-Trinity National Forest’s annual Operation Christmas Tree event on Dec. 7. (U.S. Forest Service)

Ally Buccanero, Shasta College student and volunteer, demonstrates how to make a bird feeder using a large pine cone and peanut butter during Shasta-Trinity National Forest’s annual Operation Christmas Tree event on Dec. 7. (U.S. Forest Service)

For some, it can be a bit challenging to get in the holiday spirit in Redding, Calif., because the area typically has warm winter temperatures. But this year, residents were treated to a Dec. 6 snowstorm, which offered the Shasta-Trinity National Forest a wintery-white backdrop for its annual Operation Christmas Tree event.

Working in partnership with Shasta County Youth and Families Foster Care, OneSAFE Place (a women’s refuge), and the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Center, the forest invited 62 local, disadvantaged youth on Dec. 7 to kick off their holiday season on the forest. Read more »