Burchel Blevins of Knox County, was named the ‘Landowner of the Year’ for the southeastern region, by the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife.
When Burchel Blevins drives visitors around his rural Kentucky farm, he points out the numerous conservation practices he has implemented to protect and preserve his land. Blevins owns more than 650 forested acres and 70 acres of open forest and grass land in different parts of Knox County, and he’s worked with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) for about 15 years.
“You learn a lot working with them,” said Blevins, referring to NRCS staff.
Using NRCS programs like the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), Conservation Stewardship Program, Wetland Reserve Easement (WRE) and the former Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program (now part of EQIP), Blevins has made many conservation improvements to his land. Read more »
A portrait of Gifford Pinchot on a national forest. Pinchot was the first Chief of the US Forest Service which was founded in 1905. Photo credit: US Forest Service
Have you ever wondered why your favorite National Park is surrounded by a National Forest? Well, it didn’t happen by accident or guesswork. The fact is, it was all started over 100 years ago by two men I like to refer to as the founding fathers of America’s public lands.
Back at the turn of the 20th Century Gifford Pinchot and John Muir had radically contrasting views of how to manage America’s wild lands and they worked tirelessly lobbying Congress and convincing Presidents to agree with them to start protecting open space.
Muir promoted preservation and Pinchot advocated for conservation. Read more »
Bison farmers Bobbi and Allen with their daughter in front of the family-run farm. Photo: Dastina Wallace.
Bison farmer Bobbi Lester cares for the land with just as much passion and love as her father. As a little girl growing up on the ranch in southern Delaware, she remembers learning the ropes of bison farming, often traveling with him to regional and national bison conferences. When Bobbi Lester’s father, Robert Collins, lost his battle to cancer in 2012, Bobbi, along with her husband Allen, stepped up to continue farming the way he would have wanted—as a family.
Bobbi recalls how her dad started with just three heifers and a bull on 88 acres in Greenwood, Delaware, and grew into the herd of 65 bison.
“Because of the bison’s population decline 30 years ago, Collins originally planned to breed the bison,” said Bobbi. Read more »
NRCS has worked with agricultural producers to restore and protect more than 250,000 acres of bottomland hardwoods in Louisiana in priority areas.
Fresh into my career as a wildlife biologist with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), two things happened: a new Farm Bill conservation program was born, and the Louisiana black bear was listed under the Endangered Species Act.
Both were very connected, even if I didn’t know it at the time.
The new program was the Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP), created in the 1990 Farm Bill and piloted in 1992 in nine states, including Louisiana. This program provides technical and financial assistance to farmers who want to voluntarily restore and protect wetlands with long-term conservation easements, enabling them to restore difficult-to-farm cropland back into wetlands. Read more »
Isolated depressional wetlands are an integral part of the local ecosystem and often provide wetland restoration opportunities.
Is it possible to simultaneously promote natural resources conservation and the growth of businesses that impact the environment? Yes. One way to do so is through “compensatory mitigation.” Compensatory mitigation is the preservation, restoration and/or establishment of a resource to offset unavoidable adverse impacts to the resource elsewhere.
For example, a compensatory mitigation agreement created in 2013 helped advance conservation in Francis Marion and Sumter National Forests in South Carolina and business growth in the surrounding area. Here’s how: Under the agreement, three local businesses supported restoration projects that improved aquatic resources located inside the Forests in order to mitigate projects that had unavoidable impacts on wetlands located outside the Forests, typically within the same ecosystem. The three participating businesses were: Duke Energy, Boeing, and The City of Charleston. Unavoidable impacts to streams, wetlands and salt marsh were mitigated under the novel agreement. Read more »
“The Conservation Innovation Grant program has an impressive track record of fostering innovative conservation tools and strategies,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack as he announced $20 million in new funding for the program. “Successes in the program can translate into new opportunities for historically underserved landowners, help resolve pressing water conservation challenges and leverage new investments in conservation partnerships with farmers, ranchers and other stakeholders.”
Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) fosters innovation in conservation tools and strategies to improve things like on-farm energy and fertilizer use as well as market-based strategies to improve water quality or mitigate climate change. Last year CIG began supporting the burgeoning field of conservation finance and impact investing to attract more private dollars to science-based solutions to benefit both producers and the environment. Read more »