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Category: Conservation

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 »

Silvopasture: Adding a Little Forest to the Farm

Hezekiah Gibson

Hezekiah and Francis Gibson’s non-profit organization, United Farmers USA works with NRCS staff to help other small farmers succeed through a wide range of outreach and technical assistance, educational programs and resources.

Lifelong farmer Hezekiah Gibson, and his wife Frances, farm 1,200 acres in Manning, South Carolina. They have been working with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) for years to improve conservation on their farm.

In 2013, the couple’s non-profit organization, United Farmers USA―dedicated to helping small farmers succeed through a wide range of outreach and technical assistance, educational programs and resources―received an NRCS Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG). These grants help NRCS support public and private entities to accelerate technology transfer and adoption of promising technologies and approaches to address some of the Nation’s most pressing natural resource concerns. Read more »

USDA Builds Conservation Partnerships to Restore Forests, Clean Water and Reduce Wildfire Risk

Green Bank Middle School students

The constructed wetlands on restored coal mine benches on the Greenbrier Ranger District of the Monongahela National Forest, not only provide habitat, but also serve as outdoor classrooms for groups that want to learn more about wetland ecology. These students are from the Green Bank Middle School (Pocahontas County, West Virginia). Photo credit: C. Barton (Green Forests Work).

Protecting our National Forests and surrounding lands against a myriad of threats is not an easy feat. That’s why joining forces with the right ally is a powerful strategy.

In 2014, U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell and Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) Chief Jason Weller formed a strategic alliance to establish the Joint Chiefs’ Landscape Restoration Partnership.

“We face a multitude of challenges in combating forest threats and the Forest Service can’t prevail alone,” said Tidwell. “The Joint Chiefs’ partnership provides a better way for us to work with local communities to reduce the risk of wildfires, ensure dependable local drinking water and improve wildlife habitat across the country.” Read more »

Innovative Irrigation Saves Water, Boosts Yields in Ogallala Aquifer Region

Project Manager Leon New discussing the progress of the 3, 4, 5 demonstration project

Project Manager Leon New discusses the progress of the 3, 4, 5 demonstration project at a 2015 district producer field day.

In the Ogallala Aquifer region, each drop of water counts. A group of forward-thinking farmers in Texas are finding innovative ways to irrigate their crops to use water more efficiently.

These farmers are working with the North Plains Groundwater Conservation District in the panhandle to study use of water from the aquifer. The Ogallala is the nation’s largest aquifer and is being depreciated by water withdrawals at an unsustainable rate. Read more »

How Do You Manage Collaborative Conservation Planning across 100 Million Acres? From a Bird’s Eye View, of Course!

SGI Interactive Web Application screenshot

The SGI Interactive Web Application enables conservationists to help plan the best conservation efforts to restore sage grouse habitat. (Click to enlarge)

The saying “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts” is often attributed to the Greek philosopher Aristotle, and that couldn’t be more true when it comes to doing conservation planning across 11 states, multiple federal agencies and millions of acres of public and private land.

The Sage Grouse Initiative (SGI), led by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), introduces the SGI Interactive Web Application, a tool that will take habitat restoration efforts for sage grouse to new heights — both visually and on the ground. The tool graphically layers vital pieces of information to paint a more cohesive picture of connected landscapes, so state and federal agencies and their partners can make more effective and targeted decisions. Read more »