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Category: Conservation

Acequia de Las Joyas Blooms with Traditional Irrigation Methods

Xavier Montoya, State Conservationist for NRCS New Mexico (left) and Mark Rose (center left), NRCS director of financial assistance programs manager, Kenneth Salazar (center right) and others

Xavier Montoya, State Conservationist for NRCS New Mexico (left) and Mark Rose (center left), NRCS director of financial assistance programs manager, talk about the successful partnerships and teamwork that led to the completion of the Las Joyas Acequia improvements near Nambe, New Mexico. Kenneth Salazar (center right), former president of the New Mexico Association of Conservation Districts and current President Jim Berlier (far right).

Spaniards built the Acequia de Las Joyas approximately 300 years ago. The acequia, a community irrigation watercourse or ditch, was the principal method of providing water to the farmers for their crop and rangelands in northern New Mexico. The parciantes (also known as acequia members) worked together to maintain the acequia and each member in return received a portion of the water.

Three centuries later, the practice is still key to making the land bloom. But, time and the elements have taken their toll on acequia and repair costs have escalated to the point that members can no longer shoulder the burden of maintaining the critical community resource alone. Read more »

Petroglyphs, Grinding Rocks and Hollywood Meet in NRCS Training Session

Ben Barnette explaining the significance of the rock formation

Ben Barnette explains the significance of the rock formation in a two-day training session. Photo: Chris Robbins.

The day was brisk, the air was fresh, and the subject of the day was captivating. Sixteen Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) field conservationists in California had just sat through a day of classroom-style instruction on cultural resources policy, law and identification. Now they trudged along behind California State Archaeologist Ben Barnette to practice their skills in a field setting.

“It all seemed fairly ordinary,” said Soil Conservationist Chris Robbins. “We stopped at a ranch and hiked over to an unremarkable rock formation jutting from the rolling landscape.  But it turned out to be a rock shelter that was used by Native Americans—with plenty of evidence to prove it. They left their marks on the walls as well as pieces of artifacts scattered nearby.” Read more »

Kentucky “Landowner of the Year” Makes Conservation a Way of Life

Burchel Blevins holding his Landowner of the Year award

Burchel Blevins of Knox County, was named the ‘Landowner of the Year’ for the southeastern region, by the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife.

When Burchel Blevins drives visitors around his rural Kentucky farm, he points out the numerous conservation practices he has implemented to protect and preserve his land. Blevins owns more than 650 forested acres and 70 acres of open forest and grass land in different parts of Knox County, and he’s worked with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) for about 15 years.

“You learn a lot working with them,” said Blevins, referring to NRCS staff.

Using NRCS programs like the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), Conservation Stewardship Program, Wetland Reserve Easement (WRE) and the former Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program (now part of EQIP), Blevins has made many conservation improvements to his land. Read more »

Second-Generation Builds on a Father’s Legacy of Sustainability at Colvine Bison

Bobbi and Allen Lester with their daughter in front of their farm

Bison farmers Bobbi and Allen with their daughter in front of the family-run farm. Photo: Dastina Wallace.

Bison farmer Bobbi Lester cares for the land with just as much passion and love as her father. As a little girl growing up on the ranch in southern Delaware, she remembers learning the ropes of bison farming, often traveling with him to regional and national bison conferences. When Bobbi Lester’s father, Robert Collins, lost his battle to cancer in 2012, Bobbi, along with her husband Allen, stepped up to continue farming the way he would have wanted—as a family.

Bobbi recalls how her dad started with just three heifers and a bull on 88 acres in Greenwood, Delaware, and grew into the herd of 65 bison.

“Because of the bison’s population decline 30 years ago, Collins originally planned to breed the bison,” said Bobbi. Read more »

Teddy Bears are Alive and Well Thanks to Stewardship-Minded Farmers in Louisiana

Landowner in Support of Black Bear Restoration sign on gate

NRCS has worked with agricultural producers to restore and protect more than 250,000 acres of bottomland hardwoods in Louisiana in priority areas.

Fresh into my career as a wildlife biologist with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), two things happened: a new Farm Bill conservation program was born, and the Louisiana black bear was listed under the Endangered Species Act.

Both were very connected, even if I didn’t know it at the time.

The new program was the Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP), created in the 1990 Farm Bill and piloted in 1992 in nine states, including Louisiana. This program provides technical and financial assistance to farmers who want to voluntarily restore and protect wetlands with long-term conservation easements, enabling them to restore difficult-to-farm cropland back into wetlands. Read more »

A High Five for Innovative Conservation Projects

“The Conservation Innovation Grant program has an impressive track record of fostering innovative conservation tools and strategies,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack as he announced $20 million in new funding for the program. “Successes in the program can translate into new opportunities for historically underserved landowners, help resolve pressing water conservation challenges and leverage new investments in conservation partnerships with farmers, ranchers and other stakeholders.”

Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) fosters innovation in conservation tools and strategies to improve things like on-farm energy and fertilizer use as well as market-based strategies to improve water quality or mitigate climate change. Last year CIG began supporting the burgeoning field of conservation finance and impact investing to attract more private dollars to science-based solutions to benefit both producers and the environment. Read more »