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Category: Conservation

The More Conservation for the Illinois and Macinaw Rivers – the Better

Tim Malone, center, is a NRCS district conservationist in Tazewell County, Ill. Here he leads a watershed tour. (NRCS photo)

Tim Malone, center, is a NRCS district conservationist in Tazewell County, Ill. Here he leads a watershed tour. (NRCS photo)

Rivers are special places, and for me, the Illinois and Macinaw rivers in central Illinois are my special places. Both rivers eventually send their waters to the Mississippi River, and the area provides habitat for wildlife as well as recreational opportunities like hunting and fishing.

But the rivers suffer from streambank erosion, soil erosion, sedimentation and nutrient runoff. We all hear about the hypoxic zone in the Gulf of Mexico at the mouth of the Mississippi, which is caused by high levels of nutrients in the water.

Water quality is important to me as a conservationist and motivates me as a conservationist. I am interested in conservation and wildlife habitat – both as a citizen that enjoys the outdoors as well as my job as a district conservationist in Tazewell County, Ill. with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). Read more »

Conservation Work in Arkansas Makes Positive Impact Downstream

Terry Dabbs gives Ann Mills, USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment, and Nancy Stoner, Environmental Protection Agency Acting Assistant Administrator for Water (right), a tour of his farm. (NRCS photo by Reginald L. Jackson)

Terry Dabbs gives Ann Mills, USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment, and Nancy Stoner, Environmental Protection Agency Acting Assistant Administrator for Water (right), a tour of his farm. (NRCS photo by Reginald L. Jackson)

I recently toured several farms near Stuttgart, Ark. with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s acting Assistant Administrator for Water Nancy Stoner, state officials and conservationists. We met farmers working to clean and conserve water using conservation efforts, including the Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.

The tour provided me and my colleagues from Washington, D.C. and almost a dozen states an opportunity to see firsthand how voluntary, incentive-conservation practices are helping Arkansas farmers maintain productivity while protecting wildlife habitat and improving water quality and water use efficiency.

On Terry Dabbs’ Discovery Farm, we heard how the combination of conservation practices results in better water quality. As Dabbs said, if he is contributing to poor water quality downstream and in the Gulf of Mexico hypoxic zone, he wants to know about it and fix it. Read more »

USDA Helps Landowners Manage for Soil Health, Buffer Drought Effects

These two farms have the same soils, same crops and same precipitation. The difference is that one farm uses many conservation practices that help improve soil health helping it thrive through extreme weather conditions. NRCS photo.

These two farms have the same soils, same crops and same precipitation. The difference is that one farm uses many conservation practices that help improve soil health helping it thrive through extreme weather conditions. NRCS photo.

Soil health is always important, but extreme weather in the last few years has shown landowners just how important managing for it really is.

“The vital part of soil is topsoil, which unfortunately is also the part most susceptible to the effects of weather. That’s what makes protecting it so crucial,” said Doug Miller, soil health coordinator with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Minnesota.

The top two components of topsoil are clay content and soil organic matter that hold nutrients and water for plant use and growth. Read more »

The International Institute of Tropical Forestry Celebrates 75 Years of Research Success

Ray Rodriguez, a collaborator from Para la Naturaleza, talks about the rural-urban ecotone and positive outcomes of community action as participants enjoy a birds-eye view overlooking the Río Piedras River Watershed boundaries in the San Juan metropolitan area, the final stop of an urban field trip on May 20 held as part of the Institute’s 75th anniversary celebration. (U.S. Forest Service)

Ray Rodriguez, a collaborator from Para la Naturaleza, talks about the rural-urban ecotone and positive outcomes of community action as participants enjoy a birds-eye view overlooking the Río Piedras River Watershed boundaries in the San Juan metropolitan area, the final stop of an urban field trip on May 20 held as part of the Institute’s 75th anniversary celebration. (U.S. Forest Service)

Scientists and community members in Puerto Rico recently celebrated 75 years of tropical forestry research with a diamond jubilee of festivities.

Last month, the International Institute of Tropical Forestry (IITF) hosted an urban field trip, where participants explored several field stations within and around the Río Piedras River watershed in San Juan, Puerto Rico, to learn about the watershed’s vulnerabilities and values in a social, economic and ecological context from Institute scientists and program collaborators. The field trip was led by Institute Director Ariel E. Lugo. Read more »

Kentucky Youngster Sees Firsthand the Importance of Wetland Restoration

Wetland sites like this one provide  outdoor recreation opportunities including bird watching and hunting. NRCS photo.

Wetland sites like this one provide outdoor recreation opportunities including bird watching and hunting. NRCS photo.

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) helps private landowners return fields and pastures that were drained for agricultural use back to their natural state – wetlands. This is because of the value that wetlands provide: they filter and store water, they prevent floods and they provide vital homes to wildlife.

Mark Putman in Christian County, Ky. is seeing the benefits on land he enrolled into a conservation easement with NRCS. Thanks to the wetland restoration project, he and his 10-year-old cousin, A.J., have a great story to tell.

Putman owns and operates a guided and non-guided hunting operation, so restoring the land to attract more wildlife was important. He and his family also enjoy hunting deer, ducks and turkey. Read more »

Light Detection and Ranging Helps USDA Pinpoint and Protect Archaeological Mounds

Light Detection and Ranging LiDAR image shows the archaeological mounds in this restored wetland in Illinois. NRCS photo.

Light Detection and Ranging LiDAR image shows the archaeological mounds in this restored wetland in Illinois. NRCS photo.

Sometimes to stop soil erosion, prevent nutrient and sediment runoff and improve habitat, conservation work does disturb the ground. Because of this, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service relies on its archaeologists on staff to review locations prior to implementing these conservation practices. As the cultural resources specialist for NRCS in Illinois, I’m never quite sure what will turn up in my daily work.

Field investigations by NRCS archaeologists are conducted to look for surface indications of cultural resources, such as historic farm remains, prehistoric artifacts and above-ground structures. I have had opportunities to visit about 2,000 archaeological sites and to record about 400 new sites on private working lands throughout the state. Read more »