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US Forest Service Harnesses Hydropower without Having to Build a Dam

The Spotted Bear Ranger Station at the Flathead National Forest in western Montana generates electricity using micro-hydropower. Like a traditional hydro dam, this small water system converts the energy of flowing water into electricity. When the water level of Addition Creek on the ranger station is adequate, the micro-hydropower system produces enough electricity to supply the entire compound which consists of 31 small buildings. Read more »

Secretary’s Column: USDA Works for Farmers, Sportsmen and the Environment

America’s farmers are among our first and finest conservationists. At USDA, we support their work to protect natural landscapes, improve water and air quality, and preserve wildlife habitat, forests and soil.

In addition to environmental benefits, this work helps drive economic growth and creates good, middle class jobs – particularly in rural communities. Farmers who help the environment improve their bottom line. Fishing, hunting, hiking, boating and other outdoor recreation adds $730 billion to our nation’s economy each year and supports millions of jobs.

That is why President Barack Obama launched his America’s Great Outdoors initiative to help re-connect Americans with the outdoors and create local partnerships focused on the long-term health of our nation’s landscapes. In the past months, as part of that effort, USDA took steps to work with landowners, farmers and ranchers conserving these lands while promoting outdoor recreation opportunities that create jobs and drive economic growth. Read more »

Virginia Producer Helps Lead the Way in Preserving the Chesapeake Bay

Planted with Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program funding, Kline’s forest buffer along Joe’s Creek is just visible in the background..

Planted with Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program funding, Kline’s forest buffer along Joe’s Creek is just visible in the background..

Conservation is in plain sight on Janet Kline’s Hidden View Farm in Virginia, with streamside fencing and buffers well integrated into the rolling vistas of the Massanutten and Little North mountains.

These conservation practices were implemented with the help of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), but caring for the land is a way of life for the long-time Shenandoah Valley resident. Read more »

Under Pressure at the Forest Products Lab

The largest wood beams ever tested are being studied at the US Forest Service Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) in Madison, Wis. If you’ve ever wondered what 80,000 pounds of load looks or sounds like when applied to a 72-foot-long, 3-ton wood beam, now’s your chance. Bam! View this short video to get a sense of both the size of these glulam beams and the engineering acumen on display at the FPL. Hint: keep the volume up around the :53 second mark.

Glued laminated (glulam) timbers are a manufactured wood product composed of layers of sawn lumber glued together. Glulam beams are typically used in commercial construction to span large open areas, such as in churches or sporting arenas. They make for both an aesthetically pleasing and structurally sound option.

The FPL is one of the few locations worldwide that has the capacity to test such large wood specimens.  As FPL engineer Doug Rammer explains, that capability is key to determining their strength. Read more »

AMS Employees Head Southwest to Scope out the Talent at a College Career Fair

On March 14-15, employees from the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) participated in the New Mexico State University (NMSU) Employment Extravaganza in Las Cruces, New Mexico.

Thanks to advertisements in the school newspaper and other local media outlets, the event had a great turnout.  The school’s career office passed out plenty of literature to make sure the students and their potential employers made solid connections.  AMS was one of nearly twenty organizations, spanning from local government offices and non-profits to large Fortune 500 companies like Walmart, to attend the school’s last career fair of the academic year. Read more »

Tapping Renewable Energy Potential at Airports

Converting airport grasslands to biofuel, solar or wind production may not only provide more environmentally sound alternative energy sources, but also increase revenue for airports and reduce the local abundance of wildlife hazardous to aircraft.  U. S. Department of Agriculture research is helping shed light on this promising concept. USDA photo by David Bergman.

Converting airport grasslands to biofuel, solar or wind production may not only provide more environmentally sound alternative energy sources, but also increase revenue for airports and reduce the local abundance of wildlife hazardous to aircraft. U. S. Department of Agriculture research is helping shed light on this promising concept. USDA photo by David Bergman.

Most people are familiar with the weekly summer ritual of mowing the lawn.  At best, the smell of fresh cut grass is appealing, but often the task is considered time consuming, tiring and expensive.  What if your “lawn” was actually hundreds of acres in size, and how often you mowed it, what type of grass you had, and if you used pesticides greatly impacted the safety of nearby residents?  “Mowing the lawn” is just one of the tasks airport managers and biologists confront as they work to keep wildlife away from runways and aircraft. Read more »