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Posts tagged: Agricultural Conservation Easement Program

Saving the Nation’s Wetlands

Florida wetlands

Florida landowners in the Northern Everglades use conservation easements as a tool to restore their wetlands. Photo courtesy of NRCS.

Wetlands are one of nature’s most productive ecosystems. They clean and recharge groundwater; reduce the damaging impacts of floods; enhance wildlife habitat; sequester carbon; and create diverse recreation opportunities such as hunting, fishing, birdwatching and canoeing.

Thousands of landowners voluntarily take big and small actions every day to protect, restore and enhance wetlands and wildlife habitat. Seventy-five percent of the nation’s wetlands are located on private and tribal lands. Read more »

Updated USDA Program Enables Farmers and Ranchers to Help Monarch Butterflies

A monarch butterfly on a flower

NRCS has updated its Conservation Stewardship Program to enable farmers and ranchers to plant milkweed and other plants to help monarch butterflies. NRCS photo by Gene Barickman.

An update to one of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) key conservation programs will enable farmers and ranchers to aid the imperiled monarch butterfly. This year, NRCS updated its Conservation Stewardship Program to include incentives for farmers and ranchers who plant milkweed and other nectar-rich plants favored by monarch butterflies.

Monarch butterflies depend on milkweed to lay their eggs during their annual journey from Mexico to the United States to as far north as Canada. Data show that monarch populations have decreased significantly over the past two decades, in part because of the decrease in native plants, including milkweed, on which their caterpillars feed. Read more »

Key Sage Grouse Habitat Protected in Colorado through a Conservation Easement Partnership

Chris West (who directed CCALT up until May 2015), left, celebrating conservation progress at the Yust ranch with Jay and Jim Yust, and CCALT's Carolyn Aspelin

Chris West (who directed CCALT up until May 2015), left, celebrates conservation progress at the Yust ranch with Jay and Jim Yust, and CCALT's Carolyn Aspelin, who worked closely with the family to close this important conservation easement. Photo courtesy of Deborah Richie with SGI.

The recent conservation easement on the Yust Ranch in northwestern Colorado represents not only the preservation of a five-generation ranching entity, it also illustrates the vitality of partnerships that expand federal programs and initiatives aimed at protecting wildlife habitat, particularly for species of concern. Read more »

Conservation Easement Protects a Vital Stock Trail in Wyoming

Beartrap Meadows in the Big Horns will be enjoyed by future generations. Photo by Matt Wells, Wyoming Stock Growers Land Trust.

Beartrap Meadows in the Big Horns will be enjoyed by future generations. Photo by Matt Wells, Wyoming Stock Growers Land Trust.

Cattlemen, woolgrowers, anglers, hikers and hunters will continue to enjoy Beartrap Meadows in the Big Horns of Wyoming thanks to a conservation easement that will forever protect a stock trail used by many ranchers.

The project conserves part of a stock trail, or stock rest, in western Johnson County that has been used by agricultural producers for almost a century.

Located high in the southern Big Horn Mountains near the headwaters of Beartrap Creek, ranchers in the region rely on the area as a stopover for rest for their cattle and sheep while driving them to summer grazing pastures. More than 20,000 head of livestock travel the trail annually to take advantage of the area’s plentiful water and forage. Read more »

Kentucky Youngster Sees Firsthand the Importance of Wetland Restoration

Wetland sites like this one provide  outdoor recreation opportunities including bird watching and hunting. NRCS photo.

Wetland sites like this one provide outdoor recreation opportunities including bird watching and hunting. NRCS photo.

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) helps private landowners return fields and pastures that were drained for agricultural use back to their natural state – wetlands. This is because of the value that wetlands provide: they filter and store water, they prevent floods and they provide vital homes to wildlife.

Mark Putman in Christian County, Ky. is seeing the benefits on land he enrolled into a conservation easement with NRCS. Thanks to the wetland restoration project, he and his 10-year-old cousin, A.J., have a great story to tell.

Putman owns and operates a guided and non-guided hunting operation, so restoring the land to attract more wildlife was important. He and his family also enjoy hunting deer, ducks and turkey. Read more »

Light Detection and Ranging Helps USDA Pinpoint and Protect Archaeological Mounds

Light Detection and Ranging LiDAR image shows the archaeological mounds in this restored wetland in Illinois. NRCS photo.

Light Detection and Ranging LiDAR image shows the archaeological mounds in this restored wetland in Illinois. NRCS photo.

Sometimes to stop soil erosion, prevent nutrient and sediment runoff and improve habitat, conservation work does disturb the ground. Because of this, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service relies on its archaeologists on staff to review locations prior to implementing these conservation practices. As the cultural resources specialist for NRCS in Illinois, I’m never quite sure what will turn up in my daily work.

Field investigations by NRCS archaeologists are conducted to look for surface indications of cultural resources, such as historic farm remains, prehistoric artifacts and above-ground structures. I have had opportunities to visit about 2,000 archaeological sites and to record about 400 new sites on private working lands throughout the state. Read more »