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Category: Conservation

USDA Works to Bring Conservation, Other Assistance to a Remote Georgia Island

One of the major partners in the Sapelo Island Red Pea Project is SICARS which has a facility on Sapelo Island. NRCS photo.

One of the major partners in the Sapelo Island Red Pea Project is SICARS which has a facility on Sapelo Island. NRCS photo.

Sapelo Island off the coast of Georgia has a handful of residents, some of whom make their living raising livestock, farming produce and managing forests. While the barrier island is isolated and only accessible by ferry or private boats, USDA agencies in Georgia recently held a meeting on the island to talk about available assistance.

“This workshop was a great opportunity for many of our partner agencies to come together to meet these coastal area residents, discuss their needs and provide information and assistance to a group of individuals that have worked very little with us in the past,” said Karri Honaker, a district conservationist with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). Read more »

A Kentucky Professor Works to Improve Irrigation Efficiency, Soil Health in High Tunnels

The University of Kentucky is using a Conservation Innovation Grant to improve the efficiency of seasonal high tunnels. NRCS and UK staff  view a water line with a high tunnel in the background. NRCS photo.

The University of Kentucky is using a Conservation Innovation Grant to improve the efficiency of seasonal high tunnels. NRCS and UK staff view a water line with a high tunnel in the background. NRCS photo.

Seasonal high tunnels have emerged in the past few years as an important tool for farmers wanting to extend their growing seasons. Right now, thanks to a Conservation Innovation Grant from USDA, a University of Kentucky professor is studying them – and how they can be made more efficient.

Krista Jacobsen, an assistant professor of horticulture, is studying the soil inside of high tunnels and the possibilities of catching rainwater to irrigate crops inside of them. High tunnels are plastic-covered structures that enable farmers to have crops ready earlier or later in the season. Read more »

USDA Plant Experts Help Cemetery Tame Slope with Native Grasses

NRCS Soil Conservationist Allen Casey, Biological Technician Nick Adams and Plant Materials Center Manager Ron Cordsiemon select a blend of warm season grass seed for both drill and broadcast into the field at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery. NRCS photo.

NRCS Soil Conservationist Allen Casey, Biological Technician Nick Adams and Plant Materials Center Manager Ron Cordsiemon select a blend of warm season grass seed for both drill and broadcast into the field at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery. NRCS photo.

Pristine landscaping covers the 355 acres of Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in St. Louis.  On a day where caretakers dutifully trim the grass and care for the about 200,000 headstones marking the final resting place of veterans and their families, three plant specialists with the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) begin work in the southeast portion of the cemetery.

They are returning a hilly slope overlooking the Mississippi River to its native landscape with native warm-season grasses. In stark contrast to the recently laid turf just inches from the edge of the slope, the native grasses will provide functionality while also restoring a small plot of land to its native species. Read more »

Idaho Ranch Applies ‘All Lands Management’ to Benefit Sage Grouse, Other Wildlife

A sage grouse chick on the Big Creek Ranch - photo taken in the wet meadow area that's important for brood-rearing. (Alexis Collins, NRCS, photo)

A sage grouse chick on the Big Creek Ranch - photo taken in the wet meadow area that's important for brood-rearing. (Alexis Collins, NRCS, photo)

The Natural Resources Conservation Service works with ranchers and partners to improve habitat for sage grouse with funding through the Sage Grouse Initiative. Focusing on privately-owned lands, the initiative covers the 11 western state range of the bird. About 40 percent of the sage grouse dwell on private lands.  Steve Stuebner is a freelance writer for the Sage Grouse Initiative, a partnership that includes NRCS.—Alexis Collins, NRCS Idaho

By Steve Stuebner, for the Sage Grouse Initiative

From a hilltop in the upper Pahsimeroi Valley, Rosana Rieth points to a large pancake-like flat. That’s where about 80-100 sage grouse come to mate each spring in the shadow of the highest mountain peaks in Idaho’s Lost River Mountains.

It’s a perfect spot for a sage grouse lek – the land is flat, surrounded by sagebrush, remote and next to the Pahsimeroi River. Read more »

Happy Birthday AmeriCorps!

FoodCorps, an AmeriCorps program, has built more than 400 school gardens in 16 states and the District of Columbia. Photo by Robyn Wardell.

FoodCorps, an AmeriCorps program, has built more than 400 school gardens in 16 states and the District of Columbia. Photo by Robyn Wardell.

As AmeriCorps celebrates its 20th anniversary, USDA salutes the deep relationship we’ve had with these remarkable volunteers and service members. From engaging in critical natural conservation efforts to helping kids learn more about nutrition and gardening to working directly with local organizations in communities enduring chronic poverty, USDA is proud to be an AmeriCorps partner.

AmeriCorps service crews are working side by side with the Forest Service to protect public lands and fight fires.  For instance, a recently announced $3.8 million partnership between AmeriCorps and the USDA’s Forest Service and over 100 other organizations participating in the 21st Century Conservation Corps, creates service opportunities for 300 new AmeriCorps members.  Through this opportunity, military veterans and youth restore our treasured public lands by rebuilding trails, managing forests and rehabilitating campsites for generations to enjoy. These service members are also doing critical wildfire management activities like tree thinning, prescribed burns and hazardous fuel control. Meanwhile, in northwest California, the AmeriCorps Watershed Stewards Project is restoring coastal watersheds from San Francisco to the Oregon border.  This effort, a partnership between the California Department of Fish and Game, Humboldt State University, and other members of the fisheries, watershed and science community, has been going strong for twenty years. Read more »

New Fences Keep Cattle In, But Allow Elk & Wildlife to Move Freely

Ryan Murray, NRCS rangeland management specialist, inspects a wildlife-friendly fence installed on John Nunn’s ranch in Albany County, Wyoming.

Ryan Murray, NRCS rangeland management specialist, inspects a wildlife-friendly fence installed on John Nunn’s ranch in Albany County, Wyoming.

Long-time rancher John Nunn’s land is near a route where pronghorn migrate. His ranch is surrounded by woven fences, and although the pronghorn can sometimes find a way through, he wanted to ease access for them.

 “We found they would go a certain path, and we didn’t want to jeopardize that,” Nunn said. Read more »