A view of the San Gorgonio Wilderness shows what the haziest days looked like in the first and second halves of the last decade. The right side of the image is about 14 percent clearer than the left. (U.S. Forest Service computer-generated graphic/Scott Copeland)
Visitors to wilderness areas treasure the stunning vistas and pristine scenery. Now there is good news for the millions of people who recreate in these special places: less haze exists in most wilderness areas allowing them to see farther and enjoy more color and texture in the scenery.
“We have even better news,” says Bret Anderson, the Forest Service’s regional haze coordinator. “Further reductions in air pollution are expected to bring even clearer air in coming years.”
All this good news is showcased in a recent series of USDA Forest Service reports showing visibility has improved at 60 of the 86 Class I wilderness areas, which are defined as those area of greater than 6,000 acres. The trends considered five-year averages of the haziest days for each year from 2000 through 2009. Read more »
Water quality in the Chesapeake Bay is important for many reasons, such as supporting local fishing economies. Water quality trading is one way to improve the quality of the Bay so that we can continue to rely on the ecosystem benefits it provides. Photo credit: NRCS
Last fall, USDA brought together a group of Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG) awardees, state policymakers, and other stakeholders involved in one of the most challenging nutrient management initiatives in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed: enabling water quality trading markets.
Water quality trading offers flexibility to those required to improve water quality in the Bay: power plants, wastewater treatment plants, new developments, and agricultural producers, among others. It allows those facing high costs of water quality improvement to reduce those costs, working with farmers to improve water quality on their behalf, thus providing farmers with additional income streams and the opportunity to significantly increase the scope of conservation practices on their land. Read more »
NRCS Illustration showing a substantial reduction in farm runoff entering the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.
Yesterday, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack visited a Virginia Century Farm in Stafford County to release a new report that shows how farmers like Gerry Silver are helping make significant progress in reducing sediment and nutrient runoff into the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.
The Secretary lauded Silver Ridge Farm as a gold standard for conservation because the owners have implemented voluntary conservation practices such as cover crops and no-till planting to control soil erosion and prevent the release of nitrogen and phosphorus into area waterways. Though the family has kept the land in continuous agricultural use for more than 100 consecutive years, he called the operation a “farm of the future” because the family has continued to evolve their operation over time to maintain productivity and diversify income opportunities. Read more »
Bridalveil Falls, Yosemite National Park, California (USDA-NRCS photo by Ron Nichols).
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 USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.
An award-winning watershed assessment tool, the Automated Geospatial Watershed Assessment (AGWA), was deployed to assess potential Rim Fire threats in Yosemite National Park in California. The park experienced a devastating fire that began on August 17, 2013, and took several months to contain. The fire burned more than 400 square miles in and around the park, cost $125.8 million to date, and is considered one of the largest wildfires in California’s history.
BAER (Burned Area Emergency Response) is a multi-agency group that includes USDA’s Forest Service and others, and is responsible for identifying potential threats such as downstream flooding and developing plans to rehabilitate and restore burned areas. BAER teams use AGWA to target immediate efforts to prevent threats to people, wildlife and the land. Using AGWA combined with the burn severity map produced by BAER teams, experts can rapidly pull together information on pre- and post-fire conditions. For example, knowing where to apply mulch after a fire can reduce runoff and erosion and can help minimize downstream risks from fire induced land cover and soil changes. Read more »
Introducing students to healthy foods early on through farm to school programs is one way to reduce the amount of fruits and vegetables wasted in schools.
October was National Farm to School Month and at FNS we ended on a high note. We released our very first nationwide assessment of farm to school activities and there was a lot of good news to be shared. The Farm to School Census showed that adoption of farm to school activities is trending up; many schools that do not currently have farm to school programs are planning to start them, and millions of children are being exposed to healthy foods and learning about where food comes from. In fact, in school year 2011-2012, schools invested over $350 Million in locally produced, healthy food. This adds up to major benefits for American nutrition and local economies.
But the benefits don’t stop there. In addition to creating new market opportunities for farmers and producers across the country, farm to school programs are a way to get students familiar with healthy foods so that they don’t throw those items away when they end up on their cafeteria tray. Read more »
Cross posted from the Dairy Good blog:
Across the nation, Americans from all walks of life are taking steps to reduce the amount of food that goes to waste. Part of the solution lies in finding innovative new ways to use food that would otherwise by wasted. That’s where the Cleveland Browns, Ohio State University, the City of Cleveland, the Dairy Innovation Center and other partners are stepping in to help.
On Sunday, November 24, this new partnership will begin taking waste from FirstEnergy Stadium and turning it into clean, renewable energy. Anaerobic digesters like the one in Cleveland are being built in greater numbers across the nation. In fact, working together with the dairy industry, USDA has provided more than 240 awards since 2009 to construct anaerobic digesters. Read more »