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See How Clean Rural Energy is Growing North Carolina, and the Nation

Joel Olson (left), President of O2 Energies, Inc. of North Carolina speaking with USDA staff

Joel Olson (left), President of O2 Energies, Inc. of North Carolina speaks with USDA staff in front of one of O2's solar projects. O2 worked with local North Carolina lender Surrey Bank & Trust and USDA Rural Development to finance the project.

In the last fiscal year, USDA Rural Development invested over $240 million in renewable energy and energy efficiency projects across the nation. Through our Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) we have changed the face of clean energy in our rural communities by promoting energy efficiency in rural small businesses and agricultural operations and the development of renewable energy sources in and around these small communities.

The renewable energy component has expanded both small and large-scale clean energy development in a number of sectors including geothermal, solar, wind, hydropower, and biofuels. Utilizing resources already available in our rural areas whether it’s sun and wind, or water and agricultural waste, USDA in partnership with local lenders has been able to provide the financial underpinnings to grow hundreds of renewable energy projects. Read more »

How Do You Manage Collaborative Conservation Planning across 100 Million Acres? From a Bird’s Eye View, of Course!

SGI Interactive Web Application screenshot

The SGI Interactive Web Application enables conservationists to help plan the best conservation efforts to restore sage grouse habitat. (Click to enlarge)

The saying “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts” is often attributed to the Greek philosopher Aristotle, and that couldn’t be more true when it comes to doing conservation planning across 11 states, multiple federal agencies and millions of acres of public and private land.

The Sage Grouse Initiative (SGI), led by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), introduces the SGI Interactive Web Application, a tool that will take habitat restoration efforts for sage grouse to new heights — both visually and on the ground. The tool graphically layers vital pieces of information to paint a more cohesive picture of connected landscapes, so state and federal agencies and their partners can make more effective and targeted decisions. Read more »

Outdoor Laboratories Provide Unique Opportunity for Environmentally-Responsible Food Production

Grassland-shrub savanna characteristic of the northern Chihuahuan Desert on the 193,000-acre Jornada Experimental Range

Grassland-shrub savanna characteristic of the northern Chihuahuan Desert on the 193,000-acre Jornada Experimental Range. Photo by Peggy Greb, USDA-ARS

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 portfolio.

Some of the world’s most unique cacti, reptiles and plants reside right here in the United States among our nation’s lush watersheds and rangelands. Their ability to survive and thrive provide clues to preserving a diverse, sustainable habitat well into the future. USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) are the stewards of some of the agricultural lands that these fascinating creatures live on.

One such place, ARS’s Jornada Rangeland Research Facility in Las Cruces, NM, is a treasure trove for observing and gathering long-term information about how these species, environmental factors and agricultural practices intertwine and impact one another. Read more »

Fighting Crime with Fiber Optics

Patrolman Josh Kennedy at his desk

At the Oneida Police Department, Patrolman Josh Kennedy uses the online systems to access instant data on wanted fugitives and other criminals.

Near Stearns, Kentucky, a state trooper monitored traffic, watching for a car described in a just-issued bulletin. A car passed. No match.

Stearns is situated on the Upper Cumberland Plateau, McCreary County which is home to just 18,000 people.

Another car flashed by. Read more »

National Invasive Species Awareness Week: Snakes, Starlings, and Swine, Oh my!

A brown treesnake, European starlings and feral swine

Brown treesnakes, European starlings and feral swine are just a few of the invasive species whose damages are lessened by Wildlife Services activities. Photos by USDA.

This month USDA highlights some of the important partners that work with us to care for our land, air, water, and wildlife.  The National Invasive Species Council is one such group.

When you hear the word “invasive,” most people automatically think of bugs and weeds. Unfortunately, invasives (or non-native pests) can also include wildlife, such as birds, reptiles, amphibians, and mammals. Read more »

Partners in Agroforestry

The Black Brook Watershed’s landscape

Potato production is an important part of the Black Brook Watershed’s landscape. Photo credit: J. Owen /Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

When thinking about how to reduce run-off from potato fields in New Brunswick, Canada, researcher Josée Owen of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada turned to a tool created by Mike Dosskey, a U.S. Forest Service researcher at the USDA National Agroforestry Center.

With others at the University of Kentucky and the Forest Service, Dosskey created AgBufferBuilder, a GIS-based computer program used for designing vegetation buffers around agricultural fields. Soil can erode, and fertilizer and pesticides off of fields while suspended in water. Buffers with trees, shrubs and other plants help to filter this water by trapping sediment and nutrients. Read more »