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Category: Conservation

USDA and Pheasants Forever Renew Partnership to Conservation

FSA Administrator Val Dolcini speaks at the 2015 National Pheasant Fest and Quail Classic.

FSA Administrator Val Dolcini speaks at the 2015 National Pheasant Fest and Quail Classic.

I recently attended the 2015 National Pheasant Fest and Quail Classic in Des Moines, Iowa, where I met with sportsmen, farmers, young people, wildlife biologists and others who are committed to strengthening wildlife habitat throughout America. It was exciting to see firsthand the passion for the native and restored grasslands and woodlands that typify the rural American landscape.

I had the honor of speaking to the group, where I highlighted the 30th anniversary of USDA’s Conservation Reserve Program (CRP).  CRP, one of the largest private lands conservation programs in the nation, is designed to reduce soil erosion, improve water and air quality, and provide habitat for wildlife. Interested landowners can establish long-term USDA-approved grasses or trees in exchange for USDA helping with the cost of establishing the plants and providing annual payments for 10 to 15 years. The covers along fields, streams and rivers prevent soil and nutrients from washing into waterways, reduce soil erosion that may otherwise contribute to poor air and water quality, and provide valuable habitat for wildlife. Read more »

Want to Know about Soil Moisture on your Farm? Soon, There May be an App for That

Tom Jackson, shown here at a Soil Climate Analysis Network site in Huntsville, Alabama coordinates in situ soil moisture networks as part of several satellite remote sensing programs, including the recently launched Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) Mission.  Dr. Jackson is currently stationed at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California helping the SMAP Science Team produce a calibrated and validated global soil moisture product. USDA ARS Photo.

Tom Jackson, shown here at a Soil Climate Analysis Network site in Huntsville, Alabama coordinates in situ soil moisture networks as part of several satellite remote sensing programs, including the recently launched Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) Mission. Dr. Jackson is currently stationed at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California helping the SMAP Science Team produce a calibrated and validated global soil moisture product. USDA ARS Photo.

“Probably it is one of the most innovative interagency tools on the planet.”  So said Dr. Roger Pulwarty, Director of the National Integrated Drought Information System (of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, located in Boulder, CO), in describing the development of a coordinated National Soil Moisture Network.

Americans hear the words “drought” and “flood” quite often, but a key factor in determining drought or flood potential, crop yield, water supply, hydrology or climate change impacts is soil moisture.  At the Ag Outlook Forum, held recently in suburban Washington, D.C., Dr. Michael Strobel, director of USDA’s National Water and Climate Center (part of the Natural Resources Conservation Service) outlined plans for a nation-wide soil moisture monitoring system and the pilot system that will pave the way. Read more »

Soils Support Urban Life

Community gardens like this one in Louisville, KY, bring neighbors together to produce fresh fruits and vegetables in areas that usually have no access to fresh produce. NRCS photo.

Community gardens like this one in Louisville, KY, bring neighbors together to produce fresh fruits and vegetables in areas that usually have no access to fresh produce. NRCS photo.

The United Nations General Assembly has designated 2015 as the International Year of Soils. This is one of a continuing series of blogs to mark this observance.

Soil is defined as a dynamic natural body that is made up of solids, liquid and gases and occurs on the earth’s surface, contains living matter, and supports or is capable of supporting plants.  But soil is bigger than this.

Civilizations have either flourished or perished partly based on this natural resource and the capability of its people to manage and use it wisely. We all depend on the soil, regardless of where we live – rural or urban. Read more »

An Ag Outlook Audience Learns How Voluntary Conservation Can Help At-Risk Wildlife and Reduce the Need for Regulation

Meet seven at-risk species that benefit from habitat restoration and enhancement through NRCS’ Working Lands for Wildlife partnership. Infographic by Jocelyn Benjamin. Click to enlarge.

Meet seven at-risk species that benefit from habitat restoration and enhancement through NRCS’ Working Lands for Wildlife partnership. Infographic by Jocelyn Benjamin. Click to enlarge.

Regulations may be needed, but are they all we need? That was the common thread weaved through presentations by natural resource experts last week at USDA’s Agricultural Outlook Forum.

Panelists included: Chris Hartley, deputy director of USDA’s Office of Environmental Markets; Jim Serfis, chief of the communications and candidate conservation branch of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, (FWS); and Matthew Wohlman, assistant deputy commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. Read more »

Powered by Diversity and Healthy Soil, an Organic Iowa Farm Flourishes

The Rosmann’s have a retail store on the farm where they sell a wide variety of goods to visiting consumers. NRCS photo.

The Rosmann’s have a retail store on the farm where they sell a wide variety of goods to visiting consumers. NRCS photo.

In many respects, Ron and Maria Vakulskas Rosmann’s “Farm Sweet Farm” is a typical Iowa farm. The Rosmann’s grow corn, soybeans, cattle and hogs.

But that’s where the similarities with traditional farming operations end.  A certified organic producer since 1994, the 700-acre farm near Harlan, Iowa is home to a remarkable amount of diversity — above and below the ground.

“Last year, we planted 26 different species of seeds, and this is typical,” Ron said. Read more »

USDA Public-Private Partners Tackling Wildfire Issues in Oregon’s East Face of the Elkhorn Mountains

Tim Fisher, a landowner in Baker County, Oregon, recently completed forest stand improvements on 232 acres of his land in partnership with the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Tim Fisher, a landowner in Baker County, Oregon, recently completed forest stand improvements on 232 acres of his land in partnership with the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Like many woodland owners in eastern Oregon, Tim Fisher enjoys and appreciates the value wildlife brings to his 1,500-plus acres in Baker County.

“I love watching the elk up here,” he said as he drove his pickup truck up a steep dirt road on his property, a mountainous view surrounding him. “I come up here to watch them at sunrise, and it’s beautiful.”

Thanks to technical and financial assistance from USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and help from other agencies, Fisher is doing work on his land to make wildlife habitat even better — while also reducing the risk of catastrophic wildfire. Read more »