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Category: Conservation

Wisconsin: Pollinator Week Highlights Addition of Bee-Friendly Prairie Habitat

Thriving prairie with black-eyed susans

Thriving prairie with pollinator-friendly flowering plants, such as black-eyed susans, blooming.

James MacDonald owns 120 acres of rural land in Green County, Wisconsin. Through USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), James expanded relic prairie on his land, including planting 3 acres of native pollinator mix through EQIP financial assistance. His prairie is in blossom all summer, with plants blooming at different times. “There are hundreds of prairie plants and they sort of pass off who’s in bloom, so from the end of the snow until the snow falls again there’s always something in bloom,” said James.

MacDonald says between his neighbors, there are about 100 hives within two miles of his property, so many bees use his prairie for food. James had a good idea of what bee-friendly mixes he wanted to plant so NRCS provided financial assistance, as well as technical assistance in site visits and checking to ensure his seed mix was adequate. Read more »

Wisconsin: Pollinator Week Highlights Buzzing Success of Local Beekeeper

A honey bee on a plant

Implementing conservation practices on lands will help provide safe and diverse food sources for honey bees, like the one pictured.

Pam Gasper, of Chaseburg, Wisconsin, has been a bee keeper for the past three years. She recently restored 2 acres on her property to include natural habitat for bees through USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). A dry summer and harsh winter in 2014 caused Pam to lose two of her three honey bee hives. She’s done her research, received technical and financial assistance from NRCS, and made some proactive changes for 2015. Pam is expecting a good harvest and “sweet reward” due to financial and technical assistance through EQIP from NRCS. She’s a strong advocate for the program and said the sign-up process was smooth and worth it.

NRCS staff provided financial assistance through EQIP and also the technical assistance Pam needed, including, site visits, a planting plan, providing options for obtaining seeds, and completing the final inspection of the successful planting just last week. Technical and financial assistance from agencies such as USDA−NRCS and programs like EQIP work to assist land users in accomplishing their goals. Read more »

Celebrating a World of Benefits from a Dwindling Resource

A monarch butterfly, a honeybee and leafcutter bee gathering nectar from a showy milkweed

A monarch butterfly, a honeybee and leafcutter bee gather nectar from a showy milkweed. Photo: John Anderson of Hedgerow Farms.

Tomorrow, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is joining the festivities at the sixth annual Pollinator Festival in honor of National Pollinator Week. Bees, butterflies, bats, birds, beetles and other animals play a critical role in the production of fruit or seeds, including plants that provide our nation’s food, fiber, fuel and medicine.

An estimated $15 billion worth of crops, including more than 90 fruits and vegetables are pollinated by honey bees alone. But despite their value, pollinator populations are dwindling due to threats of habitat loss, disease, parasites and environmental contaminants. That’s why farmers and ranchers are doing their part to improve the health of pollinators while providing benefits to the environment. Producers have worked with NRCS to voluntarily apply conservation practices on hundreds of thousands of acres of land because they know people and pollinators depend on each other for survival. Read more »

Protecting Pollinators through Habitat Conservation is Critical to Preserving Food Supply

Honeybees leaving and returning to the hive after collecting pollen

Honeybees leaving and returning to the hive after collecting pollen. Photo: Ashton Ebarb.

“They’re in a happy mood today,” Jim Pratt, a local apiarist, said.

At a comfortable 62 degrees, honeybees buzz with a clear objective: collect nectar and pollen, for honey and pollination.

“Pollinators, like honeybees, support food crops,” Pratt said, explaining why for 20 years he’s raised honeybees.

Pratt’s Farm annually produces about 120 pounds of honey per colony. He maintains 100 colonies, collecting honey from them each spring, summer and fall. During the winter, the bees eat stored honey until warmer weather arrives. Read more »

Louisiana’s “Teddy Bear” is Making a Comeback

NRCS employee Darren Boudreaux holding newborn black bears

NRCS employee Darren Boudreaux holds newborn black bears while collecting den location and data collection. Photo: NRCS.

On the brink of extinction in 1992, the Louisiana black bear was added to the threatened and endangered species list.

At the time of listing, more than 80 percent of suitable Louisiana black bear habitat was lost. The bottomland hardwood forests of the Louisiana Delta were cleared for row crop production; roads, homes and towns were built; and humans began encountering the shy, but curious, Louisiana black bear more often. The habitat fragmentation, or isolation of suitable patches of hardwood bottoms, affected the bears’ ability to travel for food, to find mates or simply to relocate to a more desirable spot to live.  Read more »

Deal Gives Back

Here at USDA, we believe in the power of community to make a difference. So when Alice Deal Middle School in Washington, DC, reached out to the USDA Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships to come visit for their annual day of service, we were eager to welcome over 100 seventh graders to our headquarters to talk about the importance of environmental awareness and conservation practices, their theme for this year. With seventy percent of the nation’s land under private ownership, the success of USDA’s partnership with landowners to clean the air we breathe, conserve and clean the water we drink, prevent soil erosion, and create and protect wildlife habitat will depend on developing a strong next generation of conservation leaders like the Alice Deal students. So too, will our ability to manage the public lands and waters, including our national forests and grasslands that we hold in trust for the American people.

After a day with these bright young students, we’ve learned that we’re in pretty good hands. Read more »