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Category: Conservation

Louisiana’s “Teddy Bear” is Making a Comeback

NRCS employee Darren Boudreaux holding newborn black bears

NRCS employee Darren Boudreaux holds newborn black bears while collecting den location and data collection. Photo: NRCS.

On the brink of extinction in 1992, the Louisiana black bear was added to the threatened and endangered species list.

At the time of listing, more than 80 percent of suitable Louisiana black bear habitat was lost. The bottomland hardwood forests of the Louisiana Delta were cleared for row crop production; roads, homes and towns were built; and humans began encountering the shy, but curious, Louisiana black bear more often. The habitat fragmentation, or isolation of suitable patches of hardwood bottoms, affected the bears’ ability to travel for food, to find mates or simply to relocate to a more desirable spot to live.  Read more »

Deal Gives Back

Here at USDA, we believe in the power of community to make a difference. So when Alice Deal Middle School in Washington, DC, reached out to the USDA Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships to come visit for their annual day of service, we were eager to welcome over 100 seventh graders to our headquarters to talk about the importance of environmental awareness and conservation practices, their theme for this year. With seventy percent of the nation’s land under private ownership, the success of USDA’s partnership with landowners to clean the air we breathe, conserve and clean the water we drink, prevent soil erosion, and create and protect wildlife habitat will depend on developing a strong next generation of conservation leaders like the Alice Deal students. So too, will our ability to manage the public lands and waters, including our national forests and grasslands that we hold in trust for the American people.

After a day with these bright young students, we’ve learned that we’re in pretty good hands. Read more »

Rancher Weathers Drought, Restores Prairie Chicken Habitat at Same Time

Christian Hagen, science adviser for LPCI, and Bill Barby (right), a Kansas rancher

Christian Hagen, science adviser for LPCI, and Bill Barby (right), a Kansas rancher, monitor growth of sand bluestem and other native grasses on his 4,000-acre ranch. NRCS photo.

By Sandra Murphy, Lesser Prairie-Chicken Initiative

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) works with ranchers and partners to improve habitat for lesser prairie-chicken through the Lesser Prairie-Chicken Initiative (LPCI). Focusing on privately-owned lands, the initiative covers five western states. About 95 percent of lesser prairie-chicken habitat is located on private lands. Sandra Murphy is communications specialist for LPCI, a partnership led by NRCS. — Justin Fritscher, NRCS

On a late April morning in southwest Kansas, sand bluestem sways over rancher Bill Barby’s head. A medley of other native grasses — little bluestem, sand lovegrass, and prairie sandreed, and more — fill the pasture around him, providing food for his cattle as well as habitat for the lesser prairie-chicken, a threatened species. Read more »

New Report Highlights Ranchers Restoring Habitat for Sage Grouse

A male greater sage grouse

A male greater sage grouse struts at a lek, near Bridgeport, CA to attract a mate. Photo by Jeannie Stafford, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Aldo Leopold once said, “Conservation will ultimately boil down to rewarding the private landowner who conserves the public interest.” Those words are powerful, especially in the West, where ranchers are partnering up to benefit sage grouse and the 350 other species that share its vast habitat.

Today, the Sand County Foundation, a non-profit organization named for Leopold’s signature book, “A Sand County Almanac,” released a report showcasing the dedication of private landowners in conserving this at-risk species that is currently being considered for listing under the Endangered Species Act. Read more »

Conservation Client Gateway: Conservation Just a Click Away

Conservation Client Gateway homepage

Conservation Client Gateway is a secure new website that lets farmers and ranchers request conservation assistance, review and sign documents, track payments and more.

Ray McCormick is no stranger to conservation. Like his father and grandfather before him, Ray is a steward of the land and sets a high standard of conservation excellence. Last week I had the pleasure of meeting him and discussing his experience with our latest online tool – the Conservation Client Gateway.

During his 30 years of working with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Ray has made many trips to his local field office. However, now that he has a Conservation Client Gateway account, Ray can replace most of those trips with a few clicks of the mouse. He can log in to request conservation assistance, review and sign documents, track payments and much more – all at his convenience. Read more »

Preserving a Way of Life for the Yakama Nation

Deputy Under Secretary Mills joining members of the Tribe in releasing lamprey into the Toppenish Creek

Lamprey, or Asum in the native language, are a culturally significant food source to the Yakama Tribe. Here, Deputy Under Secretary Mills joins members of the Tribe in releasing lamprey into the Toppenish Creek as part of the tribe's reintroduction program. NRCS photo.

Recently, I visited the 1.1 million acre Yakama Nation reservation located in southwestern Washington State. Touring the reservation, I was able to see first hand how funds from the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) will help the over 10,000 members of the Yakama tribe.

Through RCPP, NRCS is working with the tribe to accelerate the recovery of fish stocks, including the Middle Columbia Steelhead, reconnect floodplains and improve irrigation water conservation. Read more »