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Forests Inside Out!

Forests Inside Out! is a partnership of the U.S. Forest Service, World Forestry Center, and the Inner City Youth Institute. The program’s activities are structured around “Project Learning Tree,” a nationally recognized curriculum that is aimed at fostering an understanding of how forests and the environment work. Partially funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, it provides outdoor education opportunities to students from underserved communities.

“Nothing compares to getting students outside,” said Rob Pierce, education director with the World Forestry Center, one of the program’s sponsors. “And, it’s important to give those who have never had the opportunity a chance to make that connection.” Read more »

For A North Dakota City, a Recovery Act Loan Makes the Difference

“Without the involvement of USDA Rural Development, this hospital would not have been built,” says Martin Richman, CEO of the Jamestown Regional Medical Center (JRMC).  Marty smiled from ear-to-ear as he prepared to thank North Dakota Rural Development State Director, Jasper Schneider and his staff at a formal ribbon cutting ceremony at the new $52 million facility.  USDA Rural Development financed a direct loan through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and guaranteed a loan through AgStar Financial.

The 25-bed, critical access hospital will not only serve a nine-county area but it will also stimulate the economy through employment of over 300 health professionals.  The community hospital’s roots date back to 1928 when ground was broken for JRMD’s predecessor.  That older structure will now be owned by Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota and remodeled into a senior housing facility financed by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).  Read more »

Disability Not a Barrier to Conservation Planning

A planning meeting with Freitas at the Redding Service Center.

A planning meeting with Freitas at the Redding Service Center.

Shasta County landowner Karen Freitas has worked with the staff of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) since 2009, when she sought help recovering from a devastating wild fire that had burned much of her 160-acre tree farm the previous summer. Read more »

White House Roundtable Meeting with Rural Leaders

This week, I led a meeting in the Roosevelt Room at the White House with leaders of a host of rural organizations to discuss the White House Rural Council.  The White House Rural Council, which was established by President Obama on June 9, 2011, will build on this Administration’s unprecedented efforts to spur job creation and economic growth in rural America.  Along with Jon Carson, the Director of the Office of Public Engagement and Doug McKalip of the White House Domestic Policy Council, we discussed the Council’s efforts to improve coordination among federal agencies. We focused in on ways to help better leverage existing federal resources in rural America – and on how  to facilitate private-public partnerships that can move the needle in building stronger rural communities.

The meeting was a chance for me to listen to our rural partners on the issues that need to be addressed and discuss potential solutions.  Some of the key issues raised included the need to coordinate more with our federal partners on health care, broadband, and other critical infrastructure; how to increase the availability of capital and lending to rural businesses and families; efforts to remove barriers to young and beginning farmers; and strategies for establishing better partnerships with states, tribes, local governments and the private sector. Many of the leaders gathered also expressed appreciation for the renewed focus on rural America and the importance the White House has placed on these issues. Read more »

Feds Fighting Hunger One Mango at a Time

State Executive Director Charles Cawley of Maryland donated over 2,000 lbs of sweet corn to “Feds Feed Families.”

State Executive Director Charles Cawley of Maryland donated over 2,000 lbs of sweet corn to “Feds Feed Families.”

Right now, federal employees across the country are banding together to support the “Feds Feed Families” food drive. We’re nearing the end of July, and while the reports coming in look promising, we need to keep pushing ahead.  August is right around the corner, which means we only have one more month to reach our USDA goal of 500,000 pounds of healthful canned goods and fresh produce. Read more »

Wood-to-Energy Recovery Act Funds Bring Jobs, Energy Savings to Maine

Maine Fuels for Schools. The firebox for Poland Regional High School's new Recovery Act-funded biomass heat system is hoisted into the boiler house, as school Principal Cari Medd (hat) and guests look on.

Maine Fuels for Schools. The firebox for Poland Regional High School's new Recovery Act-funded biomass heat system is hoisted into the boiler house, as school Principal Cari Medd (hat) and guests look on.

In August 2009, a total of $11.4 million in U.S. Forest Service Recovery Act funds were made available to the State of Maine for grants to help rural, economically depressed counties support the conversion of heating systems to wood/dual-fuel heating systems for an estimated 15 public buildings. Read more »