Cross posted from DOI News:
California is in the throes of the worst drought in the 160 years during which records have been kept. As a result, the state’s overextended water system is in crisis. All segments of California’s economy— one of the largest in the world—are experiencing the effects of this drought. The economic, social and environmental impacts on agriculture, industry, jobs, communities’ drinking water and the ecosystem will reverberate across the country, and that is why actions need to be taken to address the situation not just in the short term, but also to sustain the state over the long run.
Following two years of dry conditions, on January 17, California Governor Jerry Brown proclaimed a State of Emergency for drought. Subsequently, the Departments of the Interior, Agriculture, and Commerce have committed to helping California prepare for and lessen drought impacts. In addition, as called for in President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, the National Drought Resilience Partnership, which includes the Department of the Interior, Department of Agriculture, Department of Commerce (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Environmental Protection Agency, and Department of Energy, will help align federal resources and policies to better support response to drought impacts and build long term sustainability and resilience in California’s water system. Read more »
Balance sheet, database, ledger, fertilizer. Which of these does not belong?
Trick question – they all belong and all are important to a farmer, but sometimes even farmers don’t realize just how important.
Farmers face a multitude of challenges every day, but record keeping is usually not the first one that comes to mind. Now, thanks to a team of researchers at University of Vermont (UVM), farmers have an easy-to-use tool that can help them save money and avoid potential fines. Read more »
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 »