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Conserving Water, Soil and Habitat on Private Lands

Two men looking at plans on a truck in front of farmland

NRCS works with private landowners to develop conservation plans that benefit the environment and farm productivity.

For 80 years, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has worked with agricultural producers to make conservation improvements to their farms, ranches and forests. These improvements help clean and conserve water, boost soil quality and restore habitat, and also make their agricultural operations more resilient.

Born amid the Dust Bowl, when persistent drought and dust storms swept through the nation, NRCS worked with stewardship-minded producers to heal the land. That work continues today, as producers voluntarily step forward to conserve natural resources, having tremendous positive impacts across the country. Read more »

Being Fire Wise is an Easy Way to Prepare for Fire Season

A wildland fire burning in front of houses and trees

Wildland fires burn intensely and creating a defensible space around your home can be the difference between a close call and destruction. Photo credit: U.S. Forest Service

We’ve all seen the heart-wrenching images on TV: lives and property destroyed by wildland fire.  And, this fire season, with over eight million acres burned, we are seeing these images more frequently.

Most of us think nothing can be done to protect a home from the onslaught of a raging wildland fire. Don’t be fooled, there is a way to protect your home.  The U.S. Forest Service calls it Fire Wise. Read more »

Child Nutrition: The Key to Creating the Healthiest Nation

The following guest blog highlights the important work of our partner the American Public Health Association (APHA). The association is a tireless advocate working to create the healthiest nation. APHA strives to reach that goal through science-based research, and education.

By Dr. Georges C. Benjamin, Executive Director, American Public Health Association

As kids across the country begin a new school year, they’ll be hitting the books to learn important skills to be successful later in life. They’ll also be visiting cafeterias, vending machines and school stores for the foods and beverages they need to fuel their growing bodies and for achieving academic success. With nearly one in three children overweight or obese, it’s critical that healthy meals are available to them throughout the school environment. Read more »

Community Eligibility: Flexibility is Key

A woman providing school meals to a child

CEP reduces school districts’ paperwork and administrative burden, giving schools more time and resources to improve their meal service.

There’s been a lot of talk over the last several years about the nutrition of school meals – where the ingredients come from, how they’re prepared, what the food tastes like, and how the meal is presented.  These are all important conversations for elevating the quality of school food service and improving the health and wellbeing of children nationwide.  But it’s also important to remember one of the most vital purposes of offering school meals: fighting hunger so kids can focus on learning. 

The Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) is a tool high-poverty schools can use to fight childhood hunger.  It allows schools in low-income areas to serve meals to all students at no cost, eliminating individual household applications for free and reduced-price meals and increasing access to nutritious food. Read more »

New Data Show Efforts to Restore Habitat for Sage Grouse Benefits Songbirds, Too

Brewer’s sparrow, green-tailed towhee and gray flycatcher graphic

Brewer’s sparrow and green-tailed towhee numbers climbed significantly where sagebrush habitat was restored. Gray flycatcher, a songbird that prefers a mix of conifers and sagebrush, saw declines when sagebrush habitat was restored. (Click to enlarge)

The Natural Resources Conservation Service works with ranchers and partners to improve habitat for sage grouse with funding through the Sage Grouse Initiative. Focusing on privately-owned lands, the initiative covers the 11 Western state range of the bird. About 40 percent of the sage grouse dwell on private lands. David Naugle is a wildlife professor at the University of Montana and the science advisor for SGI, an NRCS-led partnership. —Tim Griffiths, NRCS

By David Naugle, Science Advisor, Sage Grouse Initiative

Restoring sagebrush ecosystems not only benefits ranching and sage grouse but other wildlife, too. New data show that populations of Brewer’s sparrow and green-tailed towhee, two sagebrush-dependent songbirds, climbed significantly in places where invading conifer trees were removed.

Three years after removing trees, Brewer’s sparrow numbers increased by 55 percent and green-tailed towhee numbers by 81 percent relative to areas not restored, according to a new report released by the Sage Grouse Initiative (SGI). These two songbirds, both identified as species of conservation concern by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), serve as early indicators of the effectiveness of restoration work. Read more »

Responding to Oak Wilt and Climate Change on the Menominee Nation Forest

Standing in a disturbed patch of forest, Menominee forester Jeff Grignon looks around and explains, “My role is to regenerate the forest, maintain the forest, create diversity, and look toward the future.” This task is becoming increasingly challenging as growing forest health issues intersect with additional stressors brought about by climate change in the forests of the Menominee Nation and elsewhere.

As a leader in forestry and natural resource conservation, USDA has a long history of working with tribes to address their management issues and concerns. Climate change is an active part of that discussion, and has been increasing through development of the new USDA Regional Climate Hubs. The network of Hubs deliver science-based knowledge, practical information, and program support to help natural resource managers, producers, and landowners make climate-informed decisions and then implement those decisions. Read more »