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Continuing the Conservation Legacy: Centennial of the Weeks Act of 1911

The legacy of the Weeks Act is shown by looking at photos of the White Mountain National Forest a century apart. Nearly a 100 years later after being decimated by logging, this photo depicts a healthy restored forest at the same location.

The legacy of the Weeks Act is shown by looking at photos of the White Mountain National Forest a century apart. Nearly a 100 years later after being decimated by logging, this photo depicts a healthy restored forest at the same location.

The Weeks Act, which went into effect on March 1, 1911, has been identified as one of the most important pieces of environmental legislation in American history.

In the early 1900s the public began to embrace a more proactive attitude toward conserving public lands. Just the year before, in 1910, Gifford Pinchot started the Forest Service. Before the Weeks Act, lands set aside for conservation were all located in the West and were created from large blocks of land in the public domain. Millions of acres of bare, eroded lands dotted the Eastern states from cut-over and farmed-out lands. In the West, the epic wildfires of 1910 fueled support for the Act. Read more »

Forecasting Western Waters – Carrying on a Tradition

This sign is posted at all officials snow course sites.

This sign is posted at all officials snow course sites.

Once a month in winter and spring, snow surveyors from USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) head for the hills to measure the mountain snowpack. These trained observers ski, snowshoe or snowmobile to established snow measurement courses to record snow data the old fashioned way – by hand. Read more »

Broadband: The Linchpin of the Future for Rural Economies

I was honored to host a panel last week at the Department of Agriculture’s Ag Outlook Forum to showcase the impact of USDA broadband programs on so many in rural communities. Our February 25th Rural Development panel, “Building a Stronger Rural Infrastructure: Broadband,” portrayed the ripple effect these investments have.

We heard from Luis Reyes, CEO of Kit Carson Electric Cooperative, which has provided electric power to consumers since WWII. They got into the broadband business because they recognized a need. Like many with a sense of community and knowledge of how broadband affects economic development, they successfully applied for Recovery Act broadband funding from USDA’s Rural Utilities Service (RUS), a Rural Development agency. “This will ultimately change the landscape of New Mexico,” Luis told the audience. “This is an opportunity for us to partner with colleges, health care facilities and the community to expand businesses, hire more employees, build markets and improve healthcare. To think that a small co-op in New Mexico can turn a project into a model program nationwide is exciting.” Read more »

Indian Dairy Farmer Uses U.S. Genetics Training to Improve His Business

Mr. Rode is pictured here with Thom Wright, a FAS agricultural attaché in India, and one of Mr. Rode’s American-origin Holstein crosses which won a milk production award at the Progressive Dairy Farmers Association show.

Mr. Rode is pictured here with Thom Wright, a FAS agricultural attaché in India, and one of Mr. Rode’s American-origin Holstein crosses which won a milk production award at the Progressive Dairy Farmers Association show.

Halfway around the world, a farmer in India stands proudly in the winner’s circle with his cow. Mr. S. Sukharpreet Singh Rode, the farmer, is a 2008 graduate of the Cochran Fellowship Program, an educational exchange program administered by USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS). Read more »

An Alaska Food Bank Expands with Help from USDA Rural Development

If you’ve ever remodeled an existing home, you can appreciate this problem. Sometimes things just get complicated.

The Kenai Peninsula Food Bank in Alaska needed to grow.  The original 9,000 square foot building, constructed in 1997, no longer met the needs of the area, so an expansion was undertaken.  That’s when the problems surfaced.  A corner of the warehouse which houses USDA commodity food products had sunk, due to an old bury pit that had not been documented.  That issue, plus the need for new food cooling equipment, heating system upgrades, and handicap-accessible washrooms, a waiting room, an arctic entry and more warehouse space caused the food bank to turn to USDA Rural Development for a Community Facilities Direct Loan. Read more »

Broadband Project Gives Michigan a Boost

Recently, the Bavarian Inn in Frankenmuth hosted an event to commemorate the award of grants and loans to Air Advantage LLC through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act Broadband Initiative Program and discussed the progress of the project to date. This is one of the largest single awards for USDA Rural Development in Michigan and it has tremendous potential to increase the economy in the Thumb region. Read more »