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It’s National Wildflower Week! Get a Little Wild with Flowers on National Forests and Grasslands

Birdseye (Hiawatha) Bird’s-eye primrose (Primula misstassincia) is found on the Hiawatha National Forest’s Pointe Aux Chenes Natural Area. It is the only true primrose native to the region with concentrations found near the shores of the Great Lakes. Inland, it is found in local fens, calcareous banks and sandstone cliffs. (U.S. Forest Service/Sara Davis)

Birdseye (Hiawatha) Bird’s-eye primrose (Primula misstassincia) is found on the Hiawatha National Forest’s Pointe Aux Chenes Natural Area. It is the only true primrose native to the region with concentrations found near the shores of the Great Lakes. Inland, it is found in local fens, calcareous banks and sandstone cliffs. (U.S. Forest Service/Sara Davis)

Hyacinth (Hoosier) The wild hyacinth are native perennial wildflowers that love full sun to slight shade and moist, rich soil. (U.S. Forest Service)

Hyacinth (Hoosier) The wild hyacinth are native perennial wildflowers that love full sun to slight shade and moist, rich soil. (U.S. Forest Service)

Walking along the peaceful Hunter Creek Road in the Charles C. Deam Wilderness, in the Hoosier National Forest, you catch a glimpse of beautiful periwinkle flowers swaying in the warm spring air. A short hike uphill and you are immersed in the full bloom of wild hyacinth, along with other delightful wildflowers such as twinleaf and trout lily.

While getting caught up in the beauty and serenity of this colorful scene, you may observe a white-tailed deer, raccoon, fox squirrel, red-shouldered hawk or scarlet tanager. This enchanted corner of the Hoosier National Forest is its only congressionally designated wilderness. It boasts plentiful spring flora thanks to its proximity to a geologic feature known as the Mount Carmel Fault. And, this is just one of 82 Wildflower Viewing Areas in the Forest Service’s Eastern Region

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With 20 Years of Leadership and Vision, Tribal Water Project Heralds New Opportunities for Prosperity

Ninety-four year old former Cheyenne River Sioux Tribal Council Member Marcella Le Beau celebrates the final stages of a major project underway to bring abundant and safe water to the Cheyenne River Reservation.

Ninety-four year old former Cheyenne River Sioux Tribal Council Member Marcella Le Beau celebrates the final stages of a major project underway to bring abundant and safe water to the Cheyenne River Reservation.

Over 20 years ago, Cheyenne River Sioux Tribal Council Member, Marcella Le Beau had a vision for her community. She was part of the initial planning process to bring abundant, safe drinking water to her tribe in north central South Dakota. It has been a multi-year undertaking beginning with a new water intake on the Missouri River. Today, the second phase is underway to increase the undersized water treatment plant. On Earth Day last week, I had the honor of gathering with Marcella, Senator Tim Johnson, and others on the ground where the new plant and trunk line from the Missouri River will be built.

“It is a momentous day for our Cheyenne River Sioux family,” Marcella told me, “We have worked a very long time, with many dedicated people involved, to make this happen.”

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Conservation Easement Helps Family Revive Treasured Wetland

 

The Nelson family worked with USDA to repair and enhance a wetland with a conservation easement.

The Nelson family worked with USDA to repair and enhance a wetland with a conservation easement.

The Conservation Easement boundary on the Nelson ranch.

The Conservation Easement boundary on the Nelson ranch.

Born in Tacoma, Wash., Thomas “Tom” Nelson remembers spending his summers at his parents’ cabin in Swan Valley, Mont. “My mom would load us all up in the car or on the train and head over,” Tom said. He recalls how excited he was to hear his mom say, “go play!”

“And, boy did we,” he said. “We would pull some nice fish out of the beaver pond on Barber Creek for breakfast and just run freely. That was exciting for city kids.”

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Secretary’s Column: Landmark Farm Bill Support for Conservation Helps to Boost Rural Economy

Rural Americans have always had a strong connection to the land. Since 2009 alone, more than 500,000 farmers, ranchers and rural land owners across the country have embarked on record conservation projects with USDA as a partner. This week, USDA built on those efforts by announcing two new conservation programs that provide producers with even stronger tools to protect land and water resources across rural America.

The Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) and the Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program (VPA-HIP) were both established under the 2014 Farm Bill. ACEP, which streamlines several existing USDA easement programs, makes available $366 million per year to a variety of public and private partners for conservation easements. The easements provided through ACEP help ensure the long-term viability of our food supply by preventing conversion of productive lands to non-agricultural use, while simultaneously protecting critical wetland resources.

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School Nutrition Professionals – Our Everyday Heroes

As the school year begins to wind down, let’s take time to acknowledge the unsung heroes in our nation’s school cafeterias.  School nutrition employees contribute greatly to a child’s short- and long-term health and academic success, but their contributions often go without recognition.  Today is School Lunch Hero Day, and next week (May 5-9) is School Nutrition Employee Week.  Let’s take this opportunity to extend our thanks for all that school nutrition employees do to support our children throughout the entire school year.

School nutrition employees often arrive well before the school buses begin rolling in, working to ensure that students have access to a healthy breakfast to start the school day.  Their commitment to these early mornings is invaluable, as we know that breakfast plays a key role in a child’s ability to learn.  Before the breakfast period ends, staff members are often doing double duty as they begin preparations for the lunch meal.  They’re on their feet, working hard to ensure that our school children receive healthy and tasty meals to fuel their day.

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US Forest Service Employees View ‘The Thick Dark Fog’ Documentary about Treatment of Native American School Children

In their Wounded Knee, South Dakota home, Walter Littlemoon looks at the book his wife, Jane Ridgway, helped him write over the course of four years. “Something was wrong with me, and I couldn’t function like what I thought a human being should.” The words he used to describe his problem became the title of a documentary. “I didn’t know the medical words. So I called the problem what I knew it to be: the thick dark fog.” (Used with permission/Kahlil Hudson/Image courtesy of Vision Maker Media. © 2012 High Valley Films)

In their Wounded Knee, South Dakota home, Walter Littlemoon looks at the book his wife, Jane Ridgway, helped him write over the course of four years. “Something was wrong with me, and I couldn’t function like what I thought a human being should.” The words he used to describe his problem became the title of a documentary. “I didn’t know the medical words. So I called the problem what I knew it to be: the thick dark fog.” (Used with permission/Kahlil Hudson/Image courtesy of Vision Maker Media. © 2012 High Valley Films)

 

Documentary filmmaker Jonathan Skurnik listens to Walter Littlemoon at Walter's house in Wounded Knee, South Dakota. Littlemoon is the focus of “The Thick Dark Fog,” which are the words he used to describe memories he blocked of years about the abuse he received in a federal Indian boarding school. (Used with permission /Kahlil Hudson/Image courtesy of Vision Maker Media. © 2012 High Valley Films)

Documentary filmmaker Jonathan Skurnik listens to Walter Littlemoon at Walter's house in Wounded Knee, South Dakota. Littlemoon is the focus of “The Thick Dark Fog,” which are the words he used to describe memories he blocked of years about the abuse he received in a federal Indian boarding school. (Used with permission /Kahlil Hudson/Image courtesy of Vision Maker Media. © 2012 High Valley Films)

Unfortunately, in the 19th and 20th centuries, the government often actively suppressed Indian culture by banning certain spiritual practices on reservations. It was only in 1978, with the passage of the American Indian Religious Freedom Act, that the government formally established a policy to protect Native American Sacred Sites and traditional forms of worship.

In federal Indian schools, children were often not allowed to be Indians – to express their Native culture or identity in any way was to risk being severely humiliated or abused. Many Native Americans lived with this trauma well into adulthood. More than 100,000 Native American students attended these schools from 1879 to the present. Although a few of the schools still exist, attendance is no longer mandatory.

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