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Category: Conservation

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 »

Tennessee Farmer Creates Top-Notch Turkey Habitat While Improving Grazing Lands

Turkeys roaming free within the protective fences on Chuck Borum’s farm

Turkeys roaming free within the protective fences on Chuck Borum’s farm.

When it comes to understanding and improving turkey habitat restoration, there are few more knowledgeable than farmer Chuck Borum in Pulaski, Tennessee. Borum bought a few hundred acres a decade ago with the intent of raising cattle, but with time, he saw how he could also establish top-notch turkey habitat.

“Initially, we only had a few turkeys on the farm, and before we knew it, we had a whole slew of them because the programs we had with NRCS helped us establish a safer habitat for them to prosper,” Borum said. Read more »

Ohio Farmer Continues Life-Long Drive to Improve Environment

Gail Dunlap's restored wetland

Gail Dunlap used the USDA Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) to implement many conservation practices on her land, including restoring nearly seven acres of wetlands on one of her Ohio farms.

Since she was a teenager some 60 years ago, Gail Dunlap has played an active role in her family’s seventh generation Ohio farming operation by focusing on ways to continually improve conservation practices and establish a natural and sustainable way of life.

“Back then, we were not that many years past the Dust Bowl times and farmers in the area were doing a wonderful job of resting the soil with long rotations,” said Dunlap. “I remember even the weeds seemed to be as beautiful as wildflowers.” Read more »

Tribal Conservation Partnership Provides Aquaculture Ponds for Walleye

Chris Borden, NRCS soil conservationist; Celie Borndal, NRCS soil conservationist; Larry Wawronowicz, Lac du Flambeau Tribe natural resources director; and Tom Melnarik, NRCS soil conservation technician

(Left to right) Chris Borden, NRCS soil conservationist; Celie Borndal, NRCS soil conservationist; Larry Wawronowicz, Lac du Flambeau Tribe natural resources director; and Tom Melnarik, NRCS soil conservation technician; view the new aquaculture pond site.

“The Tribe wants to provide a sustainable supply of walleye for tribal and non-tribal fishing in reservation waters,” said Lac du Flambeau Tribe Natural Resources Director Larry Wawronowicz. “Raising the fish larger is necessary now due to shoreline development, increased competition from in aquatic invasives like zebra mussels, and climate change.”

Sustainable conservation and protection of natural resources has always been a goal of the Lac du Flambeau Tribe since inhabiting parts of Wisconsin in 1745. The Tribe acquired the name from its gathering practices of harvesting fish by torchlight at night. Their focus is to protect pristine areas, restore degraded natural and wildlife resources, and help build strong communities. Read more »

Bioreactors Form a Last Line of Defense against Nitrate Runoff

Illustration of how a denitrifying bioreactor fits in with drainage water management (DWM). Image by John Peterson.

Illustration of how a denitrifying bioreactor fits in with drainage water management

NOTE: This year, we’ll be highlighting some of 2015’s conservation practice innovations in a monthly series. NRCS supports science-based conservation by offering technical and financial assistance for nearly 170 conservation practice standards. As conservation science and technology advances, NRCS reevaluates each standard every five years and incorporates new advancements into conservation practice standards.

Walk to the edge of certain crop fields in Iowa and look down. You might not notice anything unusual, but just beneath the surface hordes of woodchip-dwelling microorganisms are busy removing excess nitrates from water before it leaves the field. By filtering nitrates, this organic gauntlet safeguards local streams and, eventually, the Gulf of Mexico. Read more »

Oregon Conservation Groups Partner with USDA for Results

Ralph Duyck on the Tualatin River Watershed

Ralph Duyck is one of 42 landowners who used the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) to protect the Tualatin River Watershed. With the initial goal of restoring fish habitat and cooling the stream, Duyck also noticed an increase in wildlife on his property.

A small group of conservation enthusiasts gathered at Ralph Duyck’s farm near Forest Grove, Oregon with a shared goal. They wanted to protect water quality and fish and wildlife habitat in and around the Tualatin River, an 83-mile tributary of the Willamette River that runs through Portland.

The group didn’t know how much interest they could attract or how much they could achieve—but that was 2005. Today, the Tualatin Basin Partners for Clean Water’s membership includes more than a dozen cities, counties, conservation districts, and environmental groups. Read more »