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Category: Conservation

National Grasslands – Celebrating and Conserving Open Space

Summer clouds dance over the Miller Hills on the Thunder Basin National Grasslands

Summer clouds dance over the Miller Hills on the Thunder Basin National Grasslands. Forest Service photo by Christi Painter

Many know about America’s Great Plains, the vast, far-as-you-can-see mostly flat lands in the country’s interior west of the Mississippi River and east of the Rocky Mountains, consisting of prairie, steppe and grasslands. The 20 national grasslands and the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie are part of this heartland tapestry, rich in stories about history, ecological health, business and job opportunities, adventures in recreation, and now—part of the U.S. Forest Service’s urgent mission to conserve open space.

During America’s westward expansion in the 1800s, a once teeming herd of bison was largely eliminated as ranchers, soldiers, prospectors and railroad builders pushed back the last frontier. The Homestead Act of 1862 brought almost six million settlers who replaced grass with crops more beneficial to their economic aspirations. Read more »

U.S. National Arboretum Bald Eaglets Are Named

Chavonda Jacobs-Young, ARS Administrator, unveiling results of the newly named bald eaglets

Chavonda Jacobs-Young, ARS Administrator, unveils results of the newly named bald eaglets—Freedom and Liberty—at the U.S. National Arboretum.

Say “hello” to Freedom and Liberty, the newly named bald eaglets at the U.S. National Arboretum! Those names were chosen by you through a poll hosted by the Friends of the National Arboretum (FONA) that was compiled from thousands of suggestions submitted to our partners: the American Eagle Foundation (AEF) and the District of Columbia Department of Energy & Environment (DOEE). The formal announcement was made today, April 26, during a ceremony at the National Arboretum.

Last October the bonded bald eagle pair, dubbed “Mr. President” and “The First Lady,” returned to the their nest at the Agricultural Research Service’s (ARS) U.S. National Arboretum, where they raised an eaglet last spring. They are the first mated pair of bald eagles to nest at the National Arboretum since 1947. Read more »

Honoring my Teachers, Sharing Traditions on the San Carlos Apache Reservation

USDA Deputy Under Secretary Arthur “Butch” Blazer with a group of San Carlos Apache Reservation fourth graders

USDA Deputy Under Secretary Arthur “Butch” Blazer is all smiles with a group of San Carlos Apache Reservation fourth graders as they hold up their Every Kid in a Park passes. Smokey Bear got in on the fun, too, and provided the kids with a special packet of information about wildfire prevention. (U.S. Forest Service)

With more than 40 years of professional experience working in the field of natural resources, I am sometimes asked to share the personal outdoor experiences I had as a tribal member growing up on my reservation. When the request involves children, and those children are Native American, I am especially honored because in my culture the elders share traditional teachings of how we are connected to nature, both through stories and traditional songs.

As we celebrate Earth Day 2016, I am reminded of a recent invitation from the U.S. Forest Service Tonto National Forest and Smokey Bear to speak at a career day on the San Carlos Apache Reservation in Arizona. I had an audience of 180 tribal fourth graders from Rice Elementary School to share my experiences growing up on a reservation and the lessons I learned about the outdoors. Read more »

Transitioning to Organic Certification

Conner Voss on his farm

Conner Voss got his family farm certified organic in 2015. Diggin’ Roots Farm is a diversified fruit, vegetable, and livestock operation in Molalla, Oregon, midway between Portland and Salem. Pictured is Conner Voss.

More and more farmers are entering the organic market. Just last year, the number of certified operations in the U.S. grew by almost 12 percent – more than double the growth rate of 2014. So how do farmers, ranchers, and food processors make the transition to organic? We talked to one farming family about their experience, learning how they used USDA programs to help with the transition process.

Conner Voss got his family farm certified organic in 2015. Diggin’ Roots Farm is a diversified fruit, vegetable, and livestock operation in Molalla, Oregon, midway between Portland and Salem. “We sell our product direct – through a CSA, at a local farmers market, and direct to restaurants – and our customers kept asking about our growing practices,” said Conner. “We wholeheartedly believe in the practices and philosophy of organic production, and certification offers a quick and easy starting place for our conversations with our community. Beyond that, being certified is a way for our small farm to actively engage in the larger organic movement by helping define and shape what organic is.” Read more »

Conservation Wildlife Enhancements Inspire Creativity in a Delaware Farmer

Richard Clifton and NRCS soil conservationist Brooke Brittingham reviewing a conservation plan

Clifton and NRCS soil conservationist Brooke Brittingham review a conservation plan on his plant and flood wildlife habitat enhancement project. Photo: Dastina Wallace, NRCS

Muffled honking above draws wildlife painter Richard Clifton’s eyes to the sky. Flying overhead is a flock of nearly 30 snow geese preparing to land nearby in Clifton’s crop field in Milton, Delaware. In early March, this is a common scene due to his unique wetland ‘plant and flood’ restoration project that enhances wildlife habitat and production.

Clifton’s farming background combined with his love of duck hunting and passion for painting wildlife gives him a unique perspective on habitat enhancement. Growing up on a farm, as did his father and many generations before him, he recognizes the need to keep his fields in production agriculture. However, as an avid duck hunter, he wants additional habitat, food and breeding grounds for wildlife―all of which inspire his award-winning wildlife paintings. Read more »

Organic Study Uses Domestic Sheep to Facilitate Sustainable Farming

Sheep grazing on cover crops in a Montana State University sustainable farming study

Sheep graze on cover crops in a Montana State University sustainable farming study. Photo courtesy of Montana State University.

Environmental and economic management of weeds and pests is a priority for organic farmers and they typically use tillage to address these issues. However, frequent mechanical tillage can reduce soil integrity, which increases costs for farmers and negatively impacts future crop growth. Now, Montana State University (MSU) researchers are studying an alternate technique to manage these issues—domestic sheep.

Instead of using traditional tilling machinery or herbicides, MSU’s project features domestic sheep that graze farmland to eliminate the cover crop and control weeds. The study will determine if an integrated animal and crop production system is an economically feasible way to reduce tillage for certified organic farms. Read more »