Shortly after taking office, I joined other Cabinet officials on a visit to rural Southwest Alaska. We met with Alaska Native leaders and heard firsthand the difficulties facing Native Americans living in small communities in remote, rural areas. Since that time, this administration has worked each day to provide Native Americans with improved housing, better educational opportunities, clean water and sanitation, and the opportunity to create good jobs. Across government, and here at USDA, we’ve made progress.
This past week, I joined President Obama and members of the Cabinet at the sixth White House Tribal Nations Conference here in Washington, DC. In addition to serving as the Chair of the White House Rural Council, I am also a member of the White House Council on Native American Affairs, chaired by Interior Secretary Sally Jewell. Our priorities in Indian Country include promoting sustainable economic development; supporting greater access to and control over healthcare; improving the effectiveness and efficiency of tribal justice systems; expanding and improving educational opportunities for Native American youth; and protecting and supporting the sustainable management of Native lands, environments and natural resources. Read more »
This week marked the sixth consecutive year tribal leaders have gathered here in Washington at the President’s invitation to meet with key members of the Obama Administration, but this time is different: more than three dozen youth ambassadors were in attendance to kick off “Generation Indigenous” (Gen-I) – a new initiative calling for programs focused on better preparing young American Indians and Alaska Natives for college and careers as well as developing leadership skills. And it all started with the President’s visit last summer to the reservation of the Standing Rock Sioux in North Dakota. The President and First Lady met with Native American youth and saw their promise, but also the challenges they face.
In addition to issuing a White House Native Youth Report, outlining past government shortcomings, current challenges and a path forward for Native youth, we will look at ways to improve educational opportunities for Native youth, including improving schools, and reforming the Indian education system. At USDA, that means we will be supporting the Generation Indigenous initiative by focusing on the support we provide to the Tribal Colleges and Universities, internships and other opportunities for Native youth, healthy food at their schools and at home, and funding for broadband, school construction and other community facilities. Read more »
A new foot bridge near the tribal village of Angoon on Admiralty Island National Monument is part of a Tongass National Forest and Youth Conservation Corps partnership. From left, Tribal Liaison Donald Frank, Angoon Trail Crew Leader Aaron McCluskey, Youth Conservation Corps member Roger Williams, also an Angoon tribal member, and Admiralty Island National Monument Ranger Chad VanOrmer pause work to celebrate the bridge’s construction and the agency’s successful Corps partnership with the Angoon Tribe. (U.S. Forest Service/Jeff Miller)
Moss and lichen grew fast on this Tongass National Forest recently built foot bridge due to the unique conditions of Southeast Alaska’s temperate rainforest. Here, the annual rainfall is measured in feet instead of inches. Some places get more than 15 feet a year. (U.S. Forest Service/Jeff Miller)
On a boggy section of single-track trail outside the Southeast Alaska tribal community of Angoon, two men are building a bridge on Admiralty Island National Monument that does much more than simply cross 10 yards of boot-eating muck. This unassuming wooden span is connecting generations, cultures and governments while symbolizing a shared path forward for the Tongass National Forest and Southeast Alaska communities.
The bridge and trail are a vital link in the Cross Admiralty Canoe Route, a 32-mile series of lakes and trail portages that allows backcountry canoeists, kayakers and others to traverse the island. But while the Civilian Conservation Corps established the modern route in the 1930s, the path it follows was not news to the island’s residents, according to Donald Frank, tribal liaison for the national monument. Read more »
A Matanuska Telephone Association Lineman works to bring high-speed broadband to Chickaloon and Glacier View. Photo courtesy MTA.
Today, Secretary Vilsack announced over $190 million of investment in broadband projects through USDA’s Community Connect program, the Public Television Digital Transition Grant, and the Telecommunications Infrastructure Loan Program.
Time and time again, we hear stories about the significant impact USDA’s investments have in the lives of hard working Americans, and we know that an investment in our rural communities is an investment in America. Read more »
Alex Vaisvil, a student intern from Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio, lowers a Lindgren multi-funnel trap to lure longhorned beetles from the mid-canopy in the Tongass National Forest. Traps were located in the forest as part of a study to refine woodborer trapping methods in Southeast Alaska. (U.S. Forest Service/Elizabeth Graham)
Non-native longhorned beetles are easily transported around the world in solid wood packing material, arriving in a new location with no natural enemies to control their populations. Across the country, many of these non-native beetles, particularly the Asian longhorned beetle, have killed tens of thousands of hardwood trees, especially in eastern states.
Will these pests ravage trees in Southeast Alaska? U.S. Forest Service specialists are working to determine ways to prevent the kind of devastation they’ve had elsewhere. Read more »
Members of the USDA Farm to School team in front of the USDA headquarters in Washington, DC.
Since the official start of the USDA Farm to School Program, we’ve focused on making sure schools have the tools they need to bring local products into the lunchroom and teach children where their food comes from. As October is National Farm to School Month, it seems an opportune time to take stock of the many resources available from USDA to help bring the farm to school.
One of our newest resources, Procuring Local Foods for Child Nutrition Programs, covers procurement basics — how to define local, where to find local products, and the variety of ways schools can purchase locally in accordance with regulations. The guide is complemented by a twelve-part webinar series called Finding, Buying and Serving Local Foods. Our fact sheets cover topics that range from USDA grants and loans that support farm to school activities to working with Cooperative Extension professionals to grow your program, while a brand new Farm to School Planning Toolkit offers eleven distinct chapters on everything from school gardens to menu planning, marketing and more. Read more »