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Natural Building – of Homes and Partnerships in Utah

Heather Gallagher inside her new home

Heather Gallagher stands in the living room of her new home that she helped build through USDA and Community Rebuilds of Moab, UT. The earthen walls and floor create a warm glow throughout the house in the afternoon sun.

Though National Homeownership Month has ended, the stories of people in rural America achieving that American dream never do. Last month I had the good fortune to visit the homes of two such people in Moab, Utah: Heather Gallagher and Lynn Chenard.

Both women live and work in the town of Moab, Utah, adjacent to Arches National Park. They were drawn there by many of the same things that call to me: rock climbing, mountain biking, river rafting, and wilderness exploration. The one thing that might have forced them out, however, is the community’s lack of affordable housing and limited seasonal work. Read more »

Cultivating Native Leaders in Conservation

Sierra Ezrre, Tlingit high school student from Juneau, Alaska, and Carrie Sykes, Haida Cultural Educator from Kasaan, Alaska

Sierra Ezrre, Tlingit high school student from Juneau, Alaska, and Carrie Sykes, Haida Cultural Educator from Kasaan, Alaska, participate in the Inter-Tribal Youth Climate Change Leadership Congress, July, 2015.

Recently, ninety Alaska Native, American Indian, and Native Hawaiian high school students came together at the National Conservation Training Center in Shepherdstown, West Virginia for a week of intensive education and peer-to-peer training about the impact of climate change on tribal communities. Organized by the Inter-Tribal Youth Climate Leaders Congress and supported by a partnership between the U.S. Forest Service, the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the National Park Service, the U.S. Geological Survey, and the Environmental Protection Agency, the gathering included Jadelynn Akamu, Ylliana Hanato, Alisha Keli’i, and Aaron Knell from Honolulu’s Hawai’i Youth Conservation Corps and Forest Service partner KUPU, as well as a team from Juneau, Alaska, including Alaska Native student Sierra Ezrre and her mentor and culture keeper Carrie Sykes. Read more »

Training the Next Generation of Watershed Managers to Fight Drought

Student interns from the California State University System working on a watershed management project

Student interns from the California State University System work on a watershed management project. A NIFA-administered grant has funded nearly 220 interns who worked more than 77,000 hours on projects that provide them real-world experience so they will be better prepared for careers in natural resources. (Photo courtesy of Michele Penilla)

With drought reaching historic proportions in Western states, America needs people with both knowledge and experience in water management to help ensure that forests and working lands stay ahead of the effects of climate change.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) is partnering with land-grant universities, minority-serving institutions, federal agencies, and other organizations to get qualified students out of their classrooms and into the field where they can pick up real, hands-on experience in natural resource protection. Read more »

Through Partnerships, Golden-Winged Warbler Thrives

A golden-winged warbler perching

A golden-winged warbler perches. Photo by Idun Geunther.

One species that enjoys the West Virginia Appalachian environment for breeding is the golden-winged warbler, but habitat has been hard to find.

There was great excitement when Idun Guenther, a wildlife biologist with the state’s Department of Natural Resources, spotted two golden-winged warbler males on the private property of Julia and Estil Hughes.

The Hughes partnered with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) on a landscape initiative called Working Lands for Wildlife (WLFW). Through NRCS and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, habitat for a variety of species on privately owned land is restored. Read more »

#USDARoadTrip: Investments in Rural Utilities

A technician installing cables at Pine Net Telephone and internet stations

A technician installs cables at Pine Net Telephone and internet stations. USDA photo by Lance Cheung.

Here at USDA, we know utilities mean more than just flipping a switch or turning on a faucet. Access to crucial rural infrastructure helps boost trade opportunities for rural businesses, create jobs, and strengthen our nation’s economy as a whole. That’s why we’re making smart investments to lay the groundwork for long-term prosperity in communities across the country and to provide the foundation needed for rural economies to thrive.

By spurring smart and sustainable infrastructure growth and by helping rural communities manage utility costs, we’re opening the door to a world of opportunities for rural businesses everywhere. Updated water and water treatment systems, increased renewable energy sources, and access to affordable, reliable electric systems and broadband all work to improve the quality of life for our nation’s rural residents, and open possibilities to connect to the global economy. Read more »

Reducing Sodium, Boosting Health for our Nation’s Schoolchildren

What's Shaking infographic

USDA’s new infographic depicts the public health importance of sodium reduction, and provides tips for school nutrition professionals on reducing the sodium content of school meals. (Click to enlarge)

Reducing sodium in school meals is an important part of a broader effort to scale back sodium intake for all Americans.  To that end, our nation’s school nutrition professionals are actively working to lower the sodium content in our children’s meals during the school day.  Many schools have already achieved USDA’s sodium targets, thanks to student feedback on menu planning, changes in recipes and products, and sharing best practices with their colleagues.

The benefits of reducing sodium are significant and supported by science, which indicates overconsumption can lead to heart disease and other chronic conditions.  Through the What’s Shaking? sodium reduction initiative, USDA has teamed with our partners across the country to make a healthful difference for our nation’s children and for their futures. Read more »