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National Forests Contribute to Alaska’s 2013 Record Salmon Harvest

Sockeye salmon swim upstream in Yakutat, Alaska. (U.S. Forest Service/Nate Catterson)

Sockeye salmon swim upstream in Yakutat, Alaska. (U.S. Forest Service/Nate Catterson)

Alaska’s Chugach and Tongass national forests are sometimes referred to as salmon forests, producing all five species of wild Pacific salmon: king, coho, sockeye, pink, and chum.

Salmon is vital to Alaska’s economy, and last year’s statewide commercial salmon harvest is being noted as a banner year. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game announced the salmon harvested in 2013 set a new record at 272 million fish.

About 45 percent, or 122 million, of these commercially harvested salmon relied on habitat managed by the U.S. Forest Service. Much of the harvest consisted of pink salmon, the most abundant of salmon found in Alaska. Don Martin, the aquatic and fish program leader for the Alaska Region, said that 95 percent of the habitat where pink salmon spawn in Southeast Alaska is on the Tongass National Forest. The work of Forest Service fish biologists contribute to the health and viability of these salmon. Read more »

Help USDA Stop Invaders that Could Devastate U.S. Crops and Forests

The coconut rhinoceros beetle, a new invasive species to Hawaii, can grow up to 2 inches long. Photo Credit: Chris Kishimoto, Hawaii Department of Agriculture

The coconut rhinoceros beetle, a new invasive species to Hawaii, can grow up to 2 inches long. Photo Credit: Chris Kishimoto, Hawaii Department of Agriculture

Big, creepy, and horned, the coconut rhinoceros beetle (CRB) loves to feed on—and kill—coconut and other palms, banana plants, and more.  This invasive species, detected in Hawaii in December 2013, makes the perfect poster child for USDA’s Invasive Plant Pest and Disease Awareness Month—a child only its mother could love.

How did it get here? And how can we prevent the spread of damaging, invasive species like this unwanted, oversized beetle?  These are great questions to consider as USDA kicks off Invasive Plant Pest and Disease Awareness Month.  Throughout April, we’re raising public awareness about the threat of invasive species and informing people how to prevent their spread—so we’ll face fewer surprises like the CRB. Read more »

Conservation Grant Helps Rice Growers Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions

A California farmer harvests his rice field.  Photo by Robert Parkhurst, Environmental Defense Fund (used with permission).

A California farmer harvests his rice field. Photo by Robert Parkhurst, Environmental Defense Fund (used with permission).

Note: Three projects funded by a USDA Conservation Innovation Grant were recently honored by the American Carbon Registry for innovative approaches to environmental stewardship. The winners included Ducks Unlimited, Delta Institute and Terra Global Capital. Ducks Unlimited’s work aimed to generate a carbon credit system for North Dakota landowners, which not only reduces greenhouse gas emissions but also restores wetlands and grasslands that are crucial to waterfowl. Delta Institute is working with farmers to reduce use of nitrogen – one of the largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions. Finally, Terra Global Capital and many others partners are working on a credit system for rice growers in California and the Midsouth. The below post provides more information on this project.

USDA is helping to provide rice growers in California and the Midsouth with new opportunities to voluntarily execute conservation practices that reduce greenhouse gas emissions while cultivating a new income stream.

The California and Midsouth rice projects are funded by a Conservation Innovation Grant from USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, which is providing more than $1 million to help identify and develop new conservation methods. The grant also leverages new and emerging ecosystem income for landowners while addressing climate change. Read more »

USDA Deputy Under Secretary Promotes Environmental Justice Goals

Deputy Under Secretary Butch Blazer delivers the keynote address at the 2014 Environmental Justice Conference in Washington, DC. USDA Photo by Bob Nichols

Deputy Under Secretary Butch Blazer delivers the keynote address at the 2014 Environmental Justice Conference in Washington, DC. USDA Photo by Bob Nichols

Late last month, I was privileged to deliver the keynote address at the 2014 National Environmental Justice Conference here in Washington.

Environmental justice is “the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies. It will be achieved when everyone enjoys the same degree of protection and equal access to the decision-making process to have a healthy environment in which to live, learn, and work.”

USDA was one of the first federal agencies identified in the 1994 Executive Order on Environmental Justice (EJ) from former President Bill Clinton due to the broad sweep of the department’s agencies with respect to the environment.  The department developed an EJ Strategic Plan and promulgated a Departmental EJ Regulation in 1997. Read more »

S.C. Farmer Still Growing Strong after 92 Years, 6 Decades, and 1 Microloan

At 92, Malachi Duncan (center) is still farming in Union, S.C. Pictured with Duncan are Cinda DeHart, farm loan tech and John McComb, farm loan officer.

At 92, Malachi Duncan (center) is still farming in Union, S.C. Pictured with Duncan are Cinda DeHart, farm loan tech and John McComb, farm loan officer.

This post is part of a Microloan Success feature series on the USDA blog.  Check back every Tuesday and Thursday as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s Farm Service Agency.

For Malachi Duncan, life as a farmer is anything but boring. At age 92, he’s going strong and ready to do more.

“I was out on the tractor trying to locate a cow,” said Duncan, who farms 43 acres of his family’s land in Union, S.C.  It’s the same land he used to plow with mules before planting cotton, peanuts and corn.

“Back then, we didn’t have any tractors,” said Duncan. “Now, that was hard with long hours.  But we farmed to survive.” Read more »

Coming Together to Improve Human Nutrition

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from the USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

During the month of April we will take a closer look at USDA’s Groundbreaking Research for a Revitalized Rural America, highlighting ways USDA researchers are improving the lives of Americans in ways you might never imagine. For example, USDA research into behavioral economics as part of nutrition research to improve diet and health.

We’ve heard it all before: you are what you eat.  We’re fueled by what we consume, so it’s important to provide our bodies with nutritious food.  That’s why the agencies within USDA’s Research, Education, and Economics (REE) mission area brought together some of the brightest minds at the Federal Government Nutrition Research Workshop last month. USDA Scientists joined forces with scientists and policy makers from other USDA agencies, Health and Human Services agencies, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the U.S. Agency for International Development to discuss the importance of nutrition research. Read more »