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Category: Conservation

Water Supply Forecast Shows Record Snow in Northern Parts of West, Parched in Southwest

Streamflow in the West consists largely of accumulated mountain snow that melts and flows into streams as temperatures warm. (NRCS photo)

Streamflow in the West consists largely of accumulated mountain snow that melts and flows into streams as temperatures warm. (NRCS photo)

March storms increased snowpack in the northern half of the West but didn’t provide much relief for the dry southern half, according to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Water and Climate Center (NWCC) in its April 2014 water supply forecast.

According to the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), most of Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, and northern parts of Colorado and Utah are expected to have near normal or above normal water supplies, according to the forecast.  Far below normal streamflow is expected for southern Oregon, California, Arizona, New Mexico, southern Utah and western Nevada. Read more »

Ready, Set, Charge! Mt. Hood National Forest Welcomes First Electric Vehicle Charging Station

Mt. Hood National Forest is home to the nation’s first electric vehicle fast charger installed on land managed by the U.S. Forest Service and on a ski resort. (Courtesy Oregon Department of Transportation)

Mt. Hood National Forest is home to the nation’s first electric vehicle fast charger installed on land managed by the U.S. Forest Service and on a ski resort. (Courtesy Oregon Department of Transportation)

Oregon, home to the nation’s first border-to-border electric highway, continues its emergence as the ultimate travel destination for electric vehicle (EV) drivers. The Forest Service, the Oregon Department of Transportation and their partners recently unveiled America’s first EV fast-charger installed on U.S. Forest Service land and at a ski resort.

By using the growing West Coast Electric Highway fast-charger network, EV drivers can now travel up Mt. Hood’s rugged slopes, looming large at 11,250 feet and located just over an hour from Portland, Ore. The charging station, at Mt. Hood Skibowl West, completes Oregon’s Mt. Hood-Columbia River Gorge Electric Byway.

“It’s a natural fit to support infrastructure that promotes clean energy near forest recreation sites,” said Bill Westbrook of the Forest Service’s Zigzag Ranger District. Read more »

Earth Team Volunteer Benefits USDA with Wetland Expertise

Molly Stetz, a graduate student in wetland ecology in New York, gives of her time and expertise to NRCS through the Earth Team program. NRCS photo.

Molly Stetz, a graduate student in wetland ecology in New York, gives of her time and expertise to NRCS through the Earth Team program. NRCS photo.

When not in class, Molly Stetz volunteered her time to USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), assisting with the agency’s efforts to restore wetlands and curb other environmental concerns.

As part of National Volunteer Week, NRCS is celebrating the contributions of volunteers like Stetz that help the agency advance the conservation mission through Earth Team.

Stetz, a graduate student in wetland ecology at the State University of New York at Brockport, donated more than 900 hours to NRCS through the agency’s Earth Team volunteer program. Read more »

Finding Success with Next Generation Farmers

Under Secretary Ed Avalos (left) listens to Carlos and Greg Chavez explain the ongoing effects of drought on farms in Texas. Greg, a next generation farmer, has worked to increase the sustainability and success of his family farm by implementing new technology and irrigation methods that decrease water consumption.

Under Secretary Ed Avalos (left) listens to Carlos and Greg Chavez explain the ongoing effects of drought on farms in Texas. Greg, a next generation farmer, has worked to increase the sustainability and success of his family farm by implementing new technology and irrigation methods that decrease water consumption.

Not everyone goes to work every day knowing that they will be inspired by the people they meet—I’m very fortunate in that way.  From the federal agencies that I oversee to the farmers and ranchers I visit with, I am truly inspired by their dedication to serving the American people and their commitment to the success of rural America.  And many of the issues that they work on or face in their daily lives are the same issues that we are all concerned with—sustainability and conservation, short-term and long-term stability, and making sure our children and the next generation have paths to success.

During a recent visit to the Texas Panhandle, I stopped to have breakfast and visit with the father and son team who run the Chavez family farm.  Carlos and Greg Chavez farm 3,600 acres of corn, wheat and cotton, and run 1,200 head of cattle on winter wheat.  Greg, the son, has focused his attention on implementing new crop watering techniques, leveraging technology and conservation practices to combat the inherent dryness brought on by the strong Panhandle winds. Read more »

Earth Team Volunteers Help USDA Soil Scientists Collect Data in Remote Minnesota

Earth Team volunteer Meghan Zenner assisted NRCS soil scientists with taking soil samples in a remote forest in Minnesota. Photo from NRCS.

Earth Team volunteer Meghan Zenner assisted NRCS soil scientists with taking soil samples in a remote forest in Minnesota. Photo from NRCS.

A group of dedicated volunteers helped make it possible for soil scientists with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to collect soil samples in remote parts of Minnesota.

Today kicks off National Volunteer Week, and NRCS is celebrating the hard work of Earth Team volunteers like the seven people in Minnesota who aided in the soil survey.

Earth Team volunteers, the agency’s volunteer corps, make a big difference, said Larissa Schmitt, a soil scientist with NRCS. “The volunteers’ wilderness skills were a huge time savings to the soil scientists,” she said. Read more »

Conservation Grant Helps Rice Growers Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions

A California farmer harvests his rice field.  Photo by Robert Parkhurst, Environmental Defense Fund (used with permission).

A California farmer harvests his rice field. Photo by Robert Parkhurst, Environmental Defense Fund (used with permission).

Note: Three projects funded by a USDA Conservation Innovation Grant were recently honored by the American Carbon Registry for innovative approaches to environmental stewardship. The winners included Ducks Unlimited, Delta Institute and Terra Global Capital. Ducks Unlimited’s work aimed to generate a carbon credit system for North Dakota landowners, which not only reduces greenhouse gas emissions but also restores wetlands and grasslands that are crucial to waterfowl. Delta Institute is working with farmers to reduce use of nitrogen – one of the largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions. Finally, Terra Global Capital and many others partners are working on a credit system for rice growers in California and the Midsouth. The below post provides more information on this project.

USDA is helping to provide rice growers in California and the Midsouth with new opportunities to voluntarily execute conservation practices that reduce greenhouse gas emissions while cultivating a new income stream.

The California and Midsouth rice projects are funded by a Conservation Innovation Grant from USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, which is providing more than $1 million to help identify and develop new conservation methods. The grant also leverages new and emerging ecosystem income for landowners while addressing climate change. Read more »