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Category: Conservation

Top Five Reasons You Should “Root” for Soil Health Farmers on Earth Day 2014

What's underneath? Healthy soil has amazing water-retention capacity. USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service is celebrating Earth Day by highlighting the importance of soil health.

What's underneath? Healthy soil has amazing water-retention capacity. USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service is celebrating Earth Day by highlighting the importance of soil health.

Earth Day is next Tuesday.  To meet the growing sustainability challenges of the 21st Century, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is reminding people that many of the solutions are right at our feet — in the soil.

Here are the top five reasons NRCS says why on Earth Day 2014 you should “root” for soil health farmers: Read more »

Fieldprint Calculator Uses a USDA Tool to Help Farmers Track Water Quality Improvement

A stalk-puller attachment is drawn through this cotton test field near Weslaco, Texas, by U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS) field technician Victor Valladares. USDA photo by Jack Dykinga.

A stalk-puller attachment is drawn through this cotton test field near Weslaco, Texas, by U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS) field technician Victor Valladares. USDA photo by Jack Dykinga.

A nonprofit for sustainable agriculture recently launched a new metric in its calculator that relies on a popular tool from USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Field to Market, the Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture, recently updated its Fieldprint Calculator that measures outcomes in the field to include a metric to measure water quality. This metric relies on NRCS’ Water Quality Index for Agricultural Runoff, or WQIag, which enables farmers to input variables about their field, such as slope, soil characteristics, nutrient and pest management, tillage practices and conservation practices to calculate impact on water quality. Read more »

Better Quality Beef Starts with Improving the Quality of the Land

Jake and Jondra Shadowen and family use conservation programs to improve their Benton, Ky. ranch. (NRCS photo)

Jake and Jondra Shadowen and family use conservation programs to improve their Benton, Ky. ranch. (NRCS photo)

When Jake and Jondra Shadowen from Benton, Ky. got married 14 years ago, they decided to buy a 26-acre ranch with a goal of raising a healthy herd of cattle. Today, thanks to hard work and conservation, they maintain a strong herd of 26 cattle, up from 11 when they first began.

They worked with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service to implement a rotational grazing system, which breaks up large pastures into smaller ones. A rotational grazing system allows for grass to grow faster and quicker and prevents soil from becoming prone to erosion. Read more »

Water Supply Forecast Shows Record Snow in Northern Parts of West, Parched in Southwest

Streamflow in the West consists largely of accumulated mountain snow that melts and flows into streams as temperatures warm. (NRCS photo)

Streamflow in the West consists largely of accumulated mountain snow that melts and flows into streams as temperatures warm. (NRCS photo)

March storms increased snowpack in the northern half of the West but didn’t provide much relief for the dry southern half, according to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Water and Climate Center (NWCC) in its April 2014 water supply forecast.

According to the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), most of Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, and northern parts of Colorado and Utah are expected to have near normal or above normal water supplies, according to the forecast.  Far below normal streamflow is expected for southern Oregon, California, Arizona, New Mexico, southern Utah and western Nevada. Read more »

Ready, Set, Charge! Mt. Hood National Forest Welcomes First Electric Vehicle Charging Station

Mt. Hood National Forest is home to the nation’s first electric vehicle fast charger installed on land managed by the U.S. Forest Service and on a ski resort. (Courtesy Oregon Department of Transportation)

Mt. Hood National Forest is home to the nation’s first electric vehicle fast charger installed on land managed by the U.S. Forest Service and on a ski resort. (Courtesy Oregon Department of Transportation)

Oregon, home to the nation’s first border-to-border electric highway, continues its emergence as the ultimate travel destination for electric vehicle (EV) drivers. The Forest Service, the Oregon Department of Transportation and their partners recently unveiled America’s first EV fast-charger installed on U.S. Forest Service land and at a ski resort.

By using the growing West Coast Electric Highway fast-charger network, EV drivers can now travel up Mt. Hood’s rugged slopes, looming large at 11,250 feet and located just over an hour from Portland, Ore. The charging station, at Mt. Hood Skibowl West, completes Oregon’s Mt. Hood-Columbia River Gorge Electric Byway.

“It’s a natural fit to support infrastructure that promotes clean energy near forest recreation sites,” said Bill Westbrook of the Forest Service’s Zigzag Ranger District. Read more »

Earth Team Volunteer Benefits USDA with Wetland Expertise

Molly Stetz, a graduate student in wetland ecology in New York, gives of her time and expertise to NRCS through the Earth Team program. NRCS photo.

Molly Stetz, a graduate student in wetland ecology in New York, gives of her time and expertise to NRCS through the Earth Team program. NRCS photo.

When not in class, Molly Stetz volunteered her time to USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), assisting with the agency’s efforts to restore wetlands and curb other environmental concerns.

As part of National Volunteer Week, NRCS is celebrating the contributions of volunteers like Stetz that help the agency advance the conservation mission through Earth Team.

Stetz, a graduate student in wetland ecology at the State University of New York at Brockport, donated more than 900 hours to NRCS through the agency’s Earth Team volunteer program. Read more »