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Category: Conservation

U.S. Forest Service Gets to the Heart of Wildland Firefighters

A crew of wildland firefighters begins their trek into a fire. Their specialty is wildfire suppression, but they sometimes perform other work, including search and rescue and disaster response assistance. (U.S. Forest Service)

A crew of wildland firefighters begins their trek into a fire. Their specialty is wildfire suppression, but they sometimes perform other work, including search and rescue and disaster response assistance. (U.S. Forest Service)

Morman Lake Hotshots check gear at a base camp. The backbone of U.S. Forest Service firefighting is the thousands of boots-on-the-ground men and women. (U.S. Forest Service)

Morman Lake Hotshots check gear at a base camp. The backbone of U.S. Forest Service firefighting is the thousands of boots-on-the-ground men and women. (U.S. Forest Service)

It takes a certain type of person to fight wildfires. It’s not what they look like. Or sound like. It’s not their heritage or their culture. It’s their heart.

 A seven-minute U.S. Forest Service recruitment video, “The Heart of a Firefighter,” takes viewers as close to being as firefighter as possible through a small screen. Read more »

Soil and Climate Data Help Farmers Reduce Severe Weather Risks

Dee Waldron, a Morgan County farmer, uses data from the NRCS Soil Climate Analysis Network, or SCAN, to make more informed farm management decisions.

Dee Waldron, a Morgan County farmer, uses data from the NRCS Soil Climate Analysis Network, or SCAN, to make more informed farm management decisions.

Utah dairyman Dee Waldron watches the weather closely. He wants clear, up-to-date weather and climate information anytime and anywhere that help him make critical farming decisions, such as when to irrigate, plant and harvest.

Waldron operates a dairy and feed grain farm in Morgan County, just east of Salt Lake City. This area is considered a high mountain desert and is not very productive without annual mountain streamflows stored in irrigation reservoirs.

“Before, I used to take a shovel in the field, dig down, and guess by feeling how much moisture was available for my crops,” Waldron said.  “Now I use my computer and iPhone to access the local weather forecast, the amount of soil moisture, the snow levels in the mountains, the amount of water in the river, and even the soil temperature. This really helps us as agricultural producers.” Read more »

USDA Volunteers Receive Presidential Honor for Service

Secretary Tom Vilsack presents the NRCS Presidential Volunteer Service Awards presented to Jerry Hattan, Torrington, Wyoming; and Russell Dorrough of Clarksville, Texas. From left: Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Donna Hattan, Jerry Hattan, Torrington Wyoming; Russell Dorrough, Clarksville, Texas and Chief Jason Weller, Natural Resources Conservation Service. Hattan and Dorrough have a combined volunteer effort of 12,000 hours. USDA Photo by Bob Nichols.

Secretary Tom Vilsack presents the NRCS Presidential Volunteer Service Awards presented to Jerry Hattan, Torrington, Wyoming; and Russell Dorrough of Clarksville, Texas. From left: Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Donna Hattan, Jerry Hattan, Torrington Wyoming; Russell Dorrough, Clarksville, Texas and Chief Jason Weller, Natural Resources Conservation Service. Hattan and Dorrough have a combined volunteer effort of 12,000 hours. USDA Photo by Bob Nichols.

Two dedicated volunteers of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service recently received the top honor for American volunteers – the lifetime Presidential Volunteer Service Award.

Russell Dorrough, of Texas, and Jerry Hattan, of Wyoming, have volunteered more than 4,000 hours with NRCS. Between 4,500 and 6,000 Americans receive this award each year.

The President’s Council on Service and Civic Participation created the President’s Volunteer Service Award program as a way to thank and honor Americans who, by their demonstrated commitment and example, give back and inspire others to engage in volunteer service. The lifetime award presented to Russell and Jerry is the program’s highest honor. Read more »

Michigan Farmers Tour Lake Erie, Hear from Water Quality Experts

A research boat operated by Ohio State University’s Stone Laboratory, takes a group of Michigan farmers to the research facility on Gibraltar Island on Lake Erie. NRCS photo.

A research boat operated by Ohio State University’s Stone Laboratory, takes a group of Michigan farmers to the research facility on Gibraltar Island on Lake Erie. NRCS photo.

Michigan farmers heard firsthand from experts about the water quality issues facing Lake Erie as well as the importance of conservation work to cleaning water.

A group of 40 farmers from southeast Michigan visited Ohio State University’s Stone Laboratory on Gibraltar Island in Lake Erie. The tour was held in late summer, not long after 500,000 people in the Toledo area were forced to spend days without public drinking water. Read more »

Soil Health Brought to Life on Lawn of USDA’s Whitten Building

Oklahoma Conservation Commission Soil Scientist Greg Scott talks about the practical benefits of best soil management practices during NRCS’ soil health demonstration earlier this month. USDA Photo by Lance Cheung.

Oklahoma Conservation Commission Soil Scientist Greg Scott talks about the practical benefits of best soil management practices during NRCS’ soil health demonstration earlier this month. USDA Photo by Lance Cheung.

Recently, I watched Jason Weller, chief of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, (NRCS) provide testimony on the benefits of soil health during a House Agriculture Committee hearing. After the Chief’s impassioned testimony, I met with the crew setting up the rainfall simulator demonstration on the lawn of the USDA’s Whitten Building.

I couldn’t help but hope that the “Bundled Benefits of Soil Health” event would effectively illustrate what Chief Weller had only hours earlier discussed with lawmakers. Before long, the audience began to assemble and people passing by from the National Mall stopped to watch as a cowboy from Oklahoma, Greg Scott, a retired NRCS soil scientist and Chris Lawrence, NRCS cropland agronomist in Virginia, delivered the event’s soil health message. Read more »

USDA Marks 50th Anniversary of the Job Corps

Daniel Stevenson, carpentry student of the Harpers Ferry Job Corps Center shows Tom Tidwell, Chief, U.S. Forest Service a map he created of the 28 Job Corps Centers in the United States at the 50th Anniversary of the Job Corp Civilian Conservation Centers celebration at the United States Department of Agriculture in Washington, DC, Wed. Sept. 17, 2014. The U.S. Forest Service operates the Job Corps Civilian Conservation Corps, the Nation’s largest residential, educational and career technical training program for young Americans. USDA photo by Bob Nichols.

Daniel Stevenson, carpentry student of the Harpers Ferry Job Corps Center shows Tom Tidwell, Chief, U.S. Forest Service a map he created of the 28 Job Corps Centers in the United States at the 50th Anniversary of the Job Corp Civilian Conservation Centers celebration at the United States Department of Agriculture in Washington, DC, Wed. Sept. 17, 2014. The U.S. Forest Service operates the Job Corps Civilian Conservation Corps, the Nation’s largest residential, educational and career technical training program for young Americans. USDA photo by Bob Nichols.

Fifty years ago, President Lyndon Johnson signed into law the Economic Opportunity Act.  This Act, part of the government effort to wipe out poverty, created the Job Corps program, which has had a positive effect on countless young lives, giving them a chance to break multi-generational cycles of poverty, get an education, and find jobs in the federal and private sectors, and in the military.  The U.S. Forest Service works closely with the Department of Labor to operate Job Corps Civilian Conservation Centers (Job Corps CCCs) around the country.

Last week, dignitaries including Deputy Under Secretary Butch Blazer, Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell, and Tina Terrell, Forest Service National Director of the Job Corps, along with colleagues from the Department of Labor, came together in Washington at USDA’s Whitten Building to mark the anniversary. Read more »