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K-9s – A Law Enforcement Officer’s Equal Partner, Best Friend

U.S. Forest Service law enforcement officer Carson Harris and his K-9 partner, Jasper, patrol the Shasta-Trinity National Forest in California. (U.S. Forest Service)

U.S. Forest Service law enforcement officer Carson Harris and his K-9 partner, Jasper, patrol the Shasta-Trinity National Forest in California. (U.S. Forest Service)

The recent tragedy involving U.S. Forest Service Law Enforcement Officer Jason Crisp and his K-9 Maros brought to light the close bond between an officer and his dog and the dangers they face.

Crisp and K-9 Maros were killed in the line of duty on March 12, 2014 in Burke County, North Carolina. The efforts of officers and K-9s are crucial to the mission of Forest Service law enforcement and a well-trained K-9 team is vital to the protection of people, property and resources on U.S. Forest Service-managed lands. Not only are the highly trained dogs involved in the apprehension of suspects and the detection of narcotics, but they also locate evidence, track individuals and provide community demonstrations. Read more »

Rice Producers, Ducks Unlimited Partner at Agriculture Department to Promote Waterfowl Habitat Efforts

NRCS Chief Jason Weller spoke at an event yesterday hosted by Ducks Unlimited and the USA Rice Federation. Chief Weller celebrated the good work of rice farmers who provide critical habitat for ducks and other migratory waterfowl. From L to R in the chairs: Betsy Ward, President and CEO of USA Rice; John Owen, Chairman of USA Rice Producers’ Group; George Dunklin, President of Ducks Unlimited; Dale Hall, CEO of Ducks Unlimited; and Dr. Mark Petrie, report author and Director of Conservation Planning at Ducks Unlimited. USDA photo by Tom Witham.

NRCS Chief Jason Weller spoke at an event yesterday hosted by Ducks Unlimited and the USA Rice Federation. Chief Weller celebrated the good work of rice farmers who provide critical habitat for ducks and other migratory waterfowl. From L to R in the chairs: Betsy Ward, President and CEO of USA Rice; John Owen, Chairman of USA Rice Producers’ Group; George Dunklin, President of Ducks Unlimited; Dale Hall, CEO of Ducks Unlimited; and Dr. Mark Petrie, report author and Director of Conservation Planning at Ducks Unlimited. USDA photo by Tom Witham.

Rice is not just for people but for the birds, too. And a new report underlines the value of rice fields as habitat for migratory birds and other waterfowl.

The working rice lands report, released this week by Ducks Unlimited and the USA Rice Federation, shows that replacing rice fields with restored wetlands would cost an estimated $3.5 billion. Plus, a large amount of food available to migratory birds during winter comes from rice fields: 44 percent in California’s Central Valley and 42 percent along the Gulf of Mexico coast.

Jason Weller, chief of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, (NRCS) joined the two partners for the report’s unveiling today, noting the important relationship the agency has with both groups as well as American farmers. Read more »

California Food for California Kids, Especially on Thursdays

California school food service directors cook and then sample new recipes that incorporate California products. (Photo courtesy of Center for Ecoliteracy)

California school food service directors cook and then sample new recipes that incorporate California products. (Photo courtesy of Center for Ecoliteracy)

I collect aprons like other people collect coins. There are dozens hanging in my kitchen, so many I suspect several have never actually been used. So it was with some self-consciousness that I accepted yet another apron last fall from the Center for Ecoliteracy.

The Center was handing out hundreds of aprons to California school food service directors along with recipes for healthy school meals. At the Palm Springs Convention Center, tables were lined with ingredients, tools of the trade such as mixing bowls and measuring cups, and two burner stoves. Our task was to locate our group and get cooking; we’d be making lunch not for hungry children but for hungry conference attendees at the California Food for California Kids conference. Read more »

The Heroism of Fostering a Healthier Next Generation

Magaly Valentin (left), and Rosalba Gomez (right) Arlington Food Services prepare fresh salads and vegetable cups for the National School Lunch Program in the kitchen at Washington-Lee High School in Arlington, Virginia. USDA Photo: Bob Nichols.

Magaly Valentin (left), and Rosalba Gomez (right) Arlington Food Services prepare fresh salads and vegetable cups for the National School Lunch Program in the kitchen at Washington-Lee High School in Arlington, Virginia. USDA Photo: Bob Nichols.

Cross posted from the Huffington Post:

As the saying goes, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Nowhere is this more evident than in our nation’s schools. Each day, millions of America’s young people are educated, fed and nurtured in these academic “villages.” A crucial aspect of each child’s education is learning how to maintain a healthy lifestyle. School nutrition employees and school nurses play critical roles in this mission, and I am fortunate to witness, first-hand, the dedication of these professionals as I visit USDA school lunch and breakfast programs around the country.

Over the next few days, we have the opportunity to pay tribute to those who work so hard to ensure the health of our children at school. On Friday, we celebrated National School Lunch Hero Day, a time to recognize hardworking school nutrition employees nationwide. This week, we are continuing to honor these professionals during National School Nutrition Employee Week. Both events allow us to demonstrate our gratitude to those who dedicate their careers to preparing and serving healthy meals to our nation’s children. Read more »

Developing National Dietary Guidance for the Birth to 24 Months Age Group

USDA and HHS are in the process of developing dietary guidelines for infants and children under two years old, based on the latest in nutrition science.

USDA and HHS are in the process of developing dietary guidelines for infants and children under two years old, based on the latest in nutrition science.

Good nutrition is vital to optimal infant and toddler growth, development, and health. The importance of this age group has been emphasized by First Lady Michelle Obama, who said that “If our kids get into the habit of getting up and playing, if their palates warm up to veggies at an early age, and if they’re not glued to a TV screen all day, they’re on their way to healthy habits for life.” So, making sure that even the youngest infants and toddlers are on the road to a healthy life is critical, and having national dietary guidance for infants and children from birth to 24 months can help make this happen.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) provides sound advice for making food and physical activity choices that promote good health and a healthy weight, and help prevent disease for Americans, including Americans at increased risk of chronic disease. The DGA has traditionally focused on adults and children 2 years of age and older. Infants and toddlers from birth to 24 months of age have not been a focus in previous versions of the DGA because of their unique nutritional needs, eating patterns, and developmental stages. Read more »

Leaf Litter Keeps Ground-Roosting Bats Warm

Roosting under leaf litter has shown to keep eastern red bats warm during the winter. (Creative Commons/Anita Gould)

Roosting under leaf litter has shown to keep eastern red bats warm during the winter. (Creative Commons/Anita Gould)

When winter weather arrives, most bats hibernate in caves, but a few species migrate to warmer areas. Warmer being relative, the migrating bats may still end up in places that are too cold for comfort, and sometimes hibernate under leaf litter for short periods of time.

Roger Perry, a wildlife biologist at the U.S. Forest Service’s Southern Research Station, studied these temporary hibernation sites to find out how much protection they offered bats, and how much energy bats expend to stay alive.

The leaf litter study took place in and around the Alum Creek Experimental Forest of the Ouachita National Forest in Arkansas, and focuses on eastern red bats, a migratory species that remains active through most of the winter. When winter temperatures are not too cold the bats roost in trees, but when temperatures plunge, the bats temporarily hibernate underneath leaf litter. Read more »