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Category: Conservation

Arkansas Conservation Partners Have a Big Impact in the St. Francis River Watershed

Fred Stuckey, of Stuckey Farms Partnership, reviews his conservation plan with Chris Culver, the local NRCS district conservationist in Poinsett County. NRCS photo.

Fred Stuckey, of Stuckey Farms Partnership, reviews his conservation plan with Chris Culver, the local NRCS district conservationist in Poinsett County. NRCS photo.

The St. Francis River in Missouri and Arkansas has suffered for years from turbidity, or cloudy water caused by runoff of sediment, but thanks to the dedication of government and non-government groups as well as farmers, the river’s water quality is improving.

Two segments in Arkansas were listed in 2006 as an impaired waterway under the Clean Water Act because of poor water quality. But in 2014, following years of focused conservation work, the two segments were removed from the impaired waterway list because water quality had greatly improved. Read more »

USDA Grant Improves Monitoring of Southwestern Willow Flycatcher, Other At-Risk Wildlife

The Southwestern willow flycatcher is an endangered bird that lives in the riparian areas of the Southwest. Photo courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The Southwestern willow flycatcher is an endangered bird that lives in the riparian areas of the Southwest. Photo courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The distinctive “fitz-bew” of the Southwestern willow flycatchers is music to the ears of the partners of Wetland Dynamics, LLC, and USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) recently improved the ability to hear them. Wetland Dynamics received a $60,000 Conservation Innovation Grant from NRCS in 2014 to develop innovative technology for monitoring the endangered flycatcher and two other imperiled species in Colorado’s San Luis Valley.

“What we’re doing is innovative,” said Jenny Nehring, a biologist and partner at Wetland Dynamics. “The technology we’re using has been around for quite some time. But with the partnership now forged with NRCS, we are able to expand and improve our innovative techniques that build upon existing tools, which will in turn help to better understand certain wildlife species and improve protection of them.” Read more »

Conifer Forum Arms Bi-state Sage-Grouse Supporters with Tools to Tackle Encroachment

An aerial view of mastication efforts to remove pinyon and juniper trees encroaching in bi-state sage grouse habitat on a Smith Valley rancher’s Bureau of Land Management grazing allotment, east of Minden, Nevada. The pinyon and juniper removal is part of an NRCS Sage Grouse Initiative project near the Conifer Forum field tour location. (Photo courtesy NRCS)

An aerial view of mastication efforts to remove pinyon and juniper trees encroaching in bi-state sage grouse habitat on a Smith Valley rancher’s Bureau of Land Management grazing allotment, east of Minden, Nevada. The pinyon and juniper removal is part of an NRCS Sage Grouse Initiative project near the Conifer Forum field tour location. (Photo courtesy NRCS)

Bi-state sage-grouse, a geographically distinct population of small game bird that lives along the border of Nevada and California, rely on a healthy sagebrush ecosystem. One of the largest habitat threats to the sage-grouse is the encroachment of pinyon and juniper trees.

Once pinyon and juniper trees move into a sagebrush-steppe area, they act simultaneously like straws and umbrellas — sucking out what little water hits the soil, while providing a canopy to catch rainfall so little moisture reaches the plants and shrubs below the trees. Little by little, the trees can close in on an area, squeezing out precious habitat for the sage-grouse. They also deter sage-grouse from landing in the area, as the birds are frightful of these tall, foreign objects that interrupt their flight path and provide a perch for predators. Read more »

USDA Helps Plant a Seed for a Healthier Next Generation of Inner City Students

Miller Grove students inspecting the plants as they go into the soil. NRCS photo.

Miller Grove students inspecting the plants as they go into the soil. NRCS photo.

As teams of agriculturalists across America celebrated National Agricultural Day on March 18, a group of volunteers and professionals arrived at Miller Grove Middle School in Lithonia, Georgia.  They were there to give a hands-on outdoor lesson on how to build, plant and maintain a school garden to a group of Atlanta metro-area students who have likely never experienced what it’s like to grow their own food.

On this made-to-order, cool and clear morning, just two days before the official start to spring, U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Dr. Joe Leonard was the first to share remarks.  He began by thanking Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack for his commitment to providing community gardens to underserved communities. “Miller Grove School is a perfect example of how partnerships between the federal government (USDA’s Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights and Natural Resource Conservation Service), non-profit organizations (The Stewart Foundation and Two Rivers Resource Conservation and Development Council) and the DeKalb County School District can work together on behalf of children.” Read more »

Colorado Hay Producer Improves Farm Efficiencies through StrikeForce Initiative

Along with growing and selling commercial hay to supplement his income, Ken Sills also spends his time raising and racing pigeons. Sills shares a photo of himself as a kid alongside his dad. NRCS photo.

Along with growing and selling commercial hay to supplement his income, Ken Sills also spends his time raising and racing pigeons. Sills shares a photo of himself as a kid alongside his dad. NRCS photo.

Ken Sills has had difficulties getting water to his hayfields for years, impacting his ability to use his Grand Junction, Colorado land efficiently.

“I just couldn’t get irrigation to the back of my place,” Sills said. “I tried a ditch and siphon tubes, but there were areas that were not getting water, so that’s when I went to the NRCS.”

In his quest for help, he found USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and staff there helped him install an efficient irrigation system. The system included an above-ground conveyance system, gated piping and a small concrete distribution structure that now provides irrigation water to about five acres of grass hay. Read more »

Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment Sees the Power of Partnership in Urban Flood Control

Flood control and prevention tour participants (L-R) NRCS State Engineer Tim Haakenstad, NRD Assistant General Manager Marlin Petermann, Under Secretary Robert Bonnie, State Conservationist Craig Derickson and NRCS District Conservationist Neil Jensen. NRCS photo.

Flood control and prevention tour participants (L-R) NRCS State Engineer Tim Haakenstad, NRD Assistant General Manager Marlin Petermann, Under Secretary Robert Bonnie, State Conservationist Craig Derickson and NRCS District Conservationist Neil Jensen. NRCS photo.

The saying, “When it rains, it pours,” can often apply to the heavy rain events in Omaha, Neb. where flooding is a concern. Due to the large amount of hard surfaces – roofs, parking lots, streets, etc. – a lot of the rainfall doesn’t soak into the ground. This generates runoff, which can quickly lead to flooding.

On a recent tour, Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment Robert Bonnie was able to see firsthand how the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service’s (NRCS) flood control projects are helping to protect lives and property in Omaha. Read more »