U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell makes welcoming remarks at the"A Community on Ecosystem Services (ACES)" conference in Crystal City, VA. USDA Photo by Bob Nichols.
What is the monetary value of a supply of clean water? Or the value of clean air or having places available to hike and fish?
For decades we have taken these resources for granted, or at least we have not put a monetary value on their benefits. That’s changing. Participants from 30 nations met this week at the ACES: A Community on Ecosystem Services; Linking Science, Practice and Decision Making conference to talk about just how we can value these benefits and include that in our decision-making and planning. As the conference kicked off, U.S. Forest Service Chief Tidwell talked about the need to quantify the benefits of public lands, building consensus and support for a multi-generational outlook, moving away from short term objectives and toward “sustaining the health and diversity of our forests and grasslands.”
Participants included a number of other federal officials, including Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, USDA Undersecretary Robert Bonnie, and Jay Jensen of the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ). Read more »
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 »
FoodCorps, an AmeriCorps program, has built more than 400 school gardens in 16 states and the District of Columbia. Photo by Robyn Wardell.
As AmeriCorps celebrates its 20th anniversary, USDA salutes the deep relationship we’ve had with these remarkable volunteers and service members. From engaging in critical natural conservation efforts to helping kids learn more about nutrition and gardening to working directly with local organizations in communities enduring chronic poverty, USDA is proud to be an AmeriCorps partner.
AmeriCorps service crews are working side by side with the Forest Service to protect public lands and fight fires. For instance, a recently announced $3.8 million partnership between AmeriCorps and the USDA’s Forest Service and over 100 other organizations participating in the 21st Century Conservation Corps, creates service opportunities for 300 new AmeriCorps members. Through this opportunity, military veterans and youth restore our treasured public lands by rebuilding trails, managing forests and rehabilitating campsites for generations to enjoy. These service members are also doing critical wildfire management activities like tree thinning, prescribed burns and hazardous fuel control. Meanwhile, in northwest California, the AmeriCorps Watershed Stewards Project is restoring coastal watersheds from San Francisco to the Oregon border. This effort, a partnership between the California Department of Fish and Game, Humboldt State University, and other members of the fisheries, watershed and science community, has been going strong for twenty years. Read more »
A recent tree planting and habitat restoration service project at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal Wildlife Refuge was part of activities to announce $6.7 million in grants to support conservation employment and mentoring opportunities for youth on public lands. From left, Erin Connelly, Forest Supervisor of the Pike and San Isabel National Forest and Cimarron and Comanche National Grasslands; Agnes Mukagasana a youth from Groundwork Denver; Daniel Jirón a regional forester with the U.S. Forest Service; and USDA Deputy Undersecretary Arthur “Butch” Blazer were part of the tree planting and habitat restoration service project. (U.S. Forest Service)
Agnes Mukagasana, an eager, next-generation youth involved in conservation, paused for a moment to adjust her hat in the afternoon Colorado sun and assess her well-honed tree-planting technique.
She learned her skills as an employee of Groundwork Denver, an organization dedicated to the sustained improvement of the physical environment through community-based partnerships including federal land management agencies such as the U.S. Forest Service.
Mukagasana and other area youth recently took part in a ceremony where the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Interior joined representatives of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and several other partners at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge. The ceremony announced $6.7 million in joint USDA, Department of Interior and National Fish and Wildlife Foundation grants to support conservation employment and mentoring opportunities for youth on public lands around the country as part of the President’s 21st Century Conservation Service Corps (21CSC) Initiative. Read more »
Over the past several years, we have seen the spread and occurrence of wildfires increase significantly. Deadly wildfires threaten our homes and communities and turn lives upside down.
USDA continues to do all that we can to protect people, homes and our forests in the face of fire. Just this week, we announced four new airtanker additions to the U.S. Forest Service’s next-generation firefighting fleet, which brings the total amount of aircraft to 21 large air tankers (with opportunities to add additional aircraft, if needed) and more than 100 helicopters. These new aircraft will enter service in the coming weeks and support over 10,000 firefighters during this year’s wildfire season. Read more »
The U.S. Forest Service has burned more than 480 acres in the Flying J Project, an effort on the Kaibab National Forest in Arizona to protect the community of Tusayan. The project is outside the Grand Canyon National Park and represents a small part of a larger effort to use controlled burns on more than 4,500 acres of the forest. So far, nearly 1,900 acres have been treated. (U.S. Forest Service/Holly Krake)
The loss of property and firefighters during wildfires are a reminder of the challenges we face in reducing the risks associated with large, unpredictable wildfires. Climate change, drought, insect infestations, changing land-use patterns, and other factors have contributed to increases in the complexity and in the numbers of wildfires across the United States.
Over the past four decades, some states such as Arizona and Idaho have seen the number of large fires burning each year more than triple. In many other western states, including California, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, and Wyoming, the number of large fires has doubled, according to a report by Climate Central. Average spring and summer temperatures across 11 Western states have increased by more than 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit, contributing to higher wildfire risks. In Arizona, spring temperatures have warmed faster than any other state in the U.S., rising nearly 1 degree per decade since 1970, which likely played a role in the increasing number of fires in the state. Read more »