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Category: Conservation

Cleaner Air through Cleaner Burning

Cindy Collins in Oregon's Hood River Valley

Cindy Collins (pictured) and about 20 other growers in Oregon’s Hood River Valley use an environmentally-friendly ‘burn box’ to eliminate pruned and diseased wood from their orchards.

“The burn box lets us burn during the summer months, when normally there’s a ban. It’s a useful tool. It burns really clean.” — Cindy Collins

See more photos from the Hood River Air Quality Project on Flickr.

When Cindy Collins wakes up in Oregon and looks out at her 46-acre orchard—with Mt. Adams towering in the background—she feels like she’s at summer camp. Read more »

Tracking Songbird Progress in Pennsylvania’s Forests

A golden-winged warbler

The golden-winged warbler has suffered a 66 percent population decline since the 1960s.

“Hear that?” Dr. Jeff Larkin bent his ears to a nearby cluster of trees amid a sea of briars.

“There’s one in there,” Larkin said excitedly. We were on the trail of a golden-winged warbler, a black-bibbed songbird, which winters in South and Central America and spends its springs and summers here in Appalachia where it breeds, nests and raises its young. Read more »

Urban Youth Discover Conservation can be Life Changing

Deputy Under Secretary Butch Blazer with Greening Youth Foundation members

Deputy Under Secretary Butch Blazer visits with members of the Greening Youth Foundation while hiking at Cascade Springs. Photo credit: Michael Williams

A peaceful forest setting mixed with sounds of birds and running water provides a feeling of solitude one would expect in a remote wilderness. But this area is anything but remote. Nestled in the shadow of Atlanta’s metropolitan skyline resides a green jewel so secluded and tucked away that many pass the main entrance without even noticing.

Part of the larger Atlanta Children’s Forest Network, Cascade Springs Nature Preserve provides 135 acres of isolated urban forest inside Atlanta’s perimeter. The Children’s Forest is instrumental in connecting underserved communities with conservation education and career paths. Yet for six young adults from inner-city Atlanta, these hidden woodlands in the heart of the city represent more than a forested landscape; they symbolize life-altering experiences. Read more »

Climate-Smart Practices Keep the Land Covered

Jessa Kay Cruz of the Xerces Society with participants at Lockeford Plant Materials Center

Jessa Kay Cruz of the Xerces Society (with net) examines wild bees along with participants at the Lockeford Plant Materials Center’s Open House in April 2015. Photo by Amber Kerr.

All this month we will be taking a look at what a changing climate means to Agriculture. The ten regional USDA Climate Hubs were established to synthesize and translate climate science and research into easily understood products and tools that land managers can use to make climate-informed decisions. The Hubs work at the regional level with an extensive network of trusted USDA agency partners, technical service providers, University collaborators, and private sector advisers to ensure they have the information they need to respond to producers that are dealing with the effects of a variable climate. USDA’s Climate Hubs are part of our broad commitment to developing the next generation of climate solutions, so that our agricultural leaders have the modern technologies and tools they need to adapt and succeed in the face of a changing climate.”

There are many ways that farmers can use plant cover to mitigate and adapt to climate change. To learn climate-smart practices, farmers can turn to resources like USDA’s Plant Materials Center in Lockeford, California (CAPMC) which is one of 25 PMCs nationwide.  Established in the 1930’s to help with plant-based tools to combat the Dust Bowl, the PMCs test, develop, and deploy plant mixtures and cultivars to solve conservation challenges.  These challenges include soil erosion, water and air pollution, riparian degradation, loss of wildlife habitat – and now, climate change. Read more »

Get a Little Wild with Flowers on National Forests, Grasslands

Wild blue phlox

Wild blue phlox (phlox divaricata) - Wild blue phlox is a native wildflower commonly encountered on the Mark Twain National Forest. Photo credit: Larry Stritch

Hiking along the peaceful Greer Spring Trail in the Mark Twain National Forest the pathway is decorated with abundant wildflowers in bloom—vibrant yellow trout lily, Jacob’s ladder and white harbinger of spring. Look up and you may see Indian pipe, bird’s-foot violet, and firepink scattered along the ridgetops.

The reward for your near-mile-long hike is a specular view of Greer Spring, Missouri’s second largest spring. Through the mist you will find beautiful smooth waters cascading over rocks and plentiful ferns and mosses. Bishop’s cap, Ebony spleenwort, and wild columbine are scattered along the dolomite cliffs that surround the spring. Following the spring’s path you will find horned pondweed, elodea, and waterthread pondweed. Read more »

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 »