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Secretary’s Column: A Blueprint for Stronger Service at USDA

Last week, I announced a Blueprint for Stronger Service at USDA.  It is our effort to make sure that in this era of reduced budgets, the folks who live, work and raise their families in rural America don’t see reduced services from the Department.

Over the past three years, USDA has made significant investments in rural America and supported farmers and ranchers.  Today the farm economy is thriving, with record income and exports – and the unemployment figure in rural America has fallen faster than in other parts of the country. Read more »

Here Comes the Year of the Dragon: How to Honor the Asian New Year while Protecting American Agriculture

Okay, Times Square, you had your big New Year’s Eve bash.  Now it’s time to usher in the Asian Lunar New Year—the Year of the Dragon—which starts on January 23.  Many Asian Americans and their friends are looking forward to enjoying traditional foods, gifts, and parades during this holiday of great cultural significance.

If you’re in on the celebration, you may find it tempting to import tastes of Asia for the festivities.  You may be ordering online or bringing food back from a trip overseas.  USDA is eager to provide you with the information you need to ensure that these items won’t harm America’s agricultural and natural resources.  Some agricultural items from certain Asian countries could be carrying pests or diseases that could seriously damage America’s crops, livestock, forests, rangeland, or community landscapes.  Avoiding these items will help make the Year of the Dragon a prosperous and happy one. Read more »

Faces of the Forest Celebrates Mark Twery

Mark Twery, a supervisory research forester on the Northern Research Station

Mark Twery, a supervisory research forester on the Northern Research Station

How does a former dancer and theater technician end up in a career in forestry? Meet Mark Twery, a supervisory research forester on the Northern Research Station in Burlington, Vt., who is not only all of the above, but loves his unique job that incorporates forestry with dance. Read more »

Laughing All the Way to the Seed Bank

Mahogany seeds, one of the species the Dominican Republic is trying to reforest.  (Photo courtesy of Toby Bloom, U.S. Forest Service)

Mahogany seeds, one of the species the Dominican Republic is trying to reforest. (Photo courtesy of Toby Bloom, U.S. Forest Service)

Everyone wants to have a full bank account — including bank accounts that hold seeds.

The U.S. Forest Service recently held a workshop with the Dominican Republic Ministry of Environmental and Natural Resources in Dry Branch, Ga., focusing on ways to increase the capacity to develop and maintain a seed bank for reforestation in the Dominican Republic.

The workshop discussed methods and approaches to compiling the seeds and best practices for preservation.  The workshop included seed biology and procedures that contribute towards the success of the bank.  Dry Branch is the home of the USFS National Seed Laboratory. Participants of the workshop will manage the Nigua Seed Bank in the Dominican Republic.  Official protocols for seed purity throughout the Dominican Republic were drafted for the new seed bank based on workshop outcomes.

Technical expertise was provided by the Forest Service with the help of an agreement with the US Agency for International Development.  Through the agreement, the Forest Service aids in equipment administration as well as the training of staff and facility management.

According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, the Dominican Republic enacted the Forestry Action Plan in 1991 that established the goal of becoming a self-sufficient timber and fuelwood producer by 2016.  The seed laboratory work will contribute to the achievement of this goal and the forestry improvements that the nation plans to make towards reforestation.

In November, an unprecedented Presidential Decree was passed to solidify the Government’s commitment to biological diversity and protected area habitat conservation.  The seed bank workshop contributed to these goals.

For more information on these and other projects, take a look at the U.S. Forest Service International Programs website.

Thanks to the Forest Service, A Tool to Lessen Bat Fatalities at Wind Energy Facilities

With the literal rise of wind energy facilities across the country in recent years, migratory bats have been affected and can die in the huge turbines designed to catch the wind—and, unintentionally, winged creatures that fly at night.

The new interactive tool referred to as the Bat Occupancy Probabilities at a Wind Energy Facility was developed by researchers from the U.S. Forest Service’s Pacific Southwest Research Station. It is designed to help wind energy facility operators make informed decisions on efficient ways to reduce impacts on migratory bats. Read more »

Forest Service Partners with Washington State Mountain bike Filmmakers

The U.S. Forest Service is tapping into its creative side to address illegal trail building on public lands by announcing an official partnership with a newly released mountain bike documentary.

The hour-long documentary, entitled “PEDAL-DRIVEN: a bikeumentary,” delves into the escalating conflict between mountain bikers hungry to ride and the federal land managers charged with protecting public lands. The growing trend of rogue trail building on public lands has become a national and international issue in recent years due in part to advancements in bicycle technology. Read more »