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New Perspectives on the Dynamics of Dry Lands

ARS ecologist Debra Peters (left) and New Mexico State University ecologist Jin Yao evaluate vegetation before estimating plant production at the Jornada Experimental Range.  Photo by Stacey Peters.

ARS ecologist Debra Peters (left) and New Mexico State University ecologist Jin Yao evaluate vegetation before estimating plant production at the Jornada Experimental Range. Photo by Stacey Peters.

Vast acreage of dry lands may evoke images of a desolate, scorched desert that is uninhabitable to humans. But the arid and semi-arid dry lands of about half of both the United States’ and the world’s land surfaces actually are complex ecosystems made up variously of grasses, shrubs, agriculture, and even urban dwellers. Now, ecological education about these complex dry lands has taken a step forward with the publication of a special issue of the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. Read more »

Southern Plains Climate Hub Helps Land Managers Build Resilience to Climate Variability

 

Wind-devastated farmland in Kansas during the Dust Bowl.
Wind-devastated farmland in Kansas during the Dust Bowl.

The U.S. Southern Plains states have always been known for their wild weather. Stories of the volatile climate of this region abound. Whether you’re talking about Pecos Bill roping a tornado in Texas, Dorothy being blown away by a twister to the Land of Oz, or the Dust Bowl in Oklahoma where “the wind comes sweeping down the plains,” all three of the Southern Plains states have a well-deserved reputation for extreme weather events. Never has this been more on display than in 2015. At the beginning of this year, the states of Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas had suffered through four long years of an extreme drought greater even than those that ravaged the region during the Dust Bowl of the 1930’s. This extreme weather cost agriculture in the region well over $20 billion and put an incredible strain on the available water supplies of numerous communities. Then, in what seemed like the blink of an eye, in a repeat of what has happened so many times in the past, the extreme drought on the Southern Plains was finally broken by extreme rainfall. Read more »

Minnesota Farmers Restore Coldwater Stream in Driftless Area

 

Ryan Pulley and his son look at Pine Creek, which flows through the land where he raises beef cattle in southeastern Minnesota. Photo: Julie MacSwain.

Ryan Pulley and his son look at Pine Creek, which flows through the land where he raises beef cattle in southeastern Minnesota. Photo: Julie MacSwain.

Pine Creek wanders through prairies and rocky bluffs, and forests and pastures, including the land where Ryan Pulley raises beef in southeastern Minnesota. Pine Creek is beautiful – fed by limestone springs and home to freshwater trout.

Coldwater streams like Pine Creek flow throughout the Driftless Area, a unique Midwestern landscape marked by its craggy limestone, sandstone valleys and steep hillsides. This terrain, which was bypassed by the glaciers, is blessed with one of the highest concentrations of limestone spring creeks in the world. Read more »

Do YOU Have a Plan to Keep Food Safe during Severe Weather?

 

Food Safety Before, During and After a Power Outage

Graphic - Food Safety Before, During and After a Power Outage

Disaster can strike at anytime and any place.  You might live in a region of the country that already has experienced some form of extreme weather event, such as wildfires, extreme cold and snow, or obstructive tornadoes, to name a few.

All of these events result in power outages for hundreds of thousands of households and communities, and as you know, no power can compromise food safety. The temperature and sanitation of food storage areas is crucial to preventing bacterial growth, and severe weather and other emergencies can compromise this.  Knowing what to do in these instances can minimize the need to throw away food and the risk of getting sick. Read more »

Forest Service Funds Landmark Climate Change Study

Workers replace a culvert with a larger one to accommodate higher water flows on the Colville National Forest (Photo Credit: USFS).

Workers replace a culvert with a larger one to accommodate higher water flows on the Colville National Forest (Photo Credit: USFS).

Preparing for the effects of climate change, the U.S. Forest Service has taken the lead in a new report that highlights actions taken by federal agencies to adapt to a changing climate.

“Some federal agen­cies are making good progress in climate change adaptation,” said University of Washington scientist and lead author Jessica Halofsky. “Most agencies have broad plans that describe approaches and priorities for climate change in general … but on-the-ground projects have been implemented slowly across the country.” Read more »

Unprecedented Collaboration to Save Sage-Grouse is the Largest Wildlife Conservation Effort in U.S.

A male greater sage grouse struts at a lek, near Bridgeport, CA to attract a mate. Photo by Jeannie Stafford, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

A male greater sage grouse struts at a lek, near Bridgeport, CA to attract a mate. Photo by Jeannie Stafford, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

This is a cross-post from the White House Blog.

Summary: Thanks to the strong conservation efforts of various western leaders, the Greater Sage-Grouse no longer requires protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

Today marks an historic win for conservation and communities in the West and for the United States. Thanks to unprecedented conservation cooperation across the western United States, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced earlier today that the charismatic rangeland bird – the greater sage-grouse – does not need to be protected under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The greater sage-grouse conservation strategy comprises the largest landscape-level conservation effort in U.S. history and demonstrates that through strong Federal, state, and private collaboration, the ESA can be an effective and flexible tool in encouraging conservation and providing the certainty needed for sustainable economic development in our states and communities. Read more »