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Posts tagged: Florida

Celebrating our Native Wildflowers for National Wildflower Week 2014

In northern Florida wildflowers are planted in an unused part of this farm field to provide habitat for pollinators. USDA photo.

In northern Florida wildflowers are planted in an unused part of this farm field to provide habitat for pollinators. USDA photo.

No matter what part of the country you grew up in, most of us have fond childhood memories of the wildflowers that sprung up each year around our homes, parks and roadsides.

For many, this fondness has carried into our adult years. This week, we celebrate National Wildflower Week as a way to share our interest and to increase public awareness for wildflowers in the landscape.

The beauty of wildflowers can indeed stir up memories of a certain place or time. But the wildflowers that are native to a particular place also serve an important function in the ecology of that place. Read more »

APHIS Geneticist Finds New Way to Track Invasive Pythons

Can you find the snake? A Burmese python peeks out from its hiding place in Florida. APHIS Wildlife Services experts are developing new tools to help track and remove this invasive species. Photo by Lori Oberhofer, National Park Service

Can you find the snake? A Burmese python peeks out from its hiding place in Florida. APHIS Wildlife Services experts are developing new tools to help track and remove this invasive species. Photo by Lori Oberhofer, National Park Service

How do you find something that doesn’t want to be found – something that has evolved to be cryptic, elusive, and stealthy?  That is the question asked of APHIS geneticist Dr. Antoinette Piaggio. She and others at the National Wildlife Research Center (NWRC) – the research arm of the APHIS Wildlife Services program – are investigating new ways to track and locate invasive Burmese pythons.

Burmese pythons have made a home in Florida competing with and feeding on native wildlife. Experts agree that new tools and techniques are crucial to monitoring and controlling the spread of this elusive snake.

“Burmese pythons are semi-aquatic and can be very hard to detect given their elusive nature and cryptic coloration,” states Piaggio. “We’ve developed a new detection method that uses environmental DNA, thereby eliminating the need for seeing or handling snakes.” Read more »

Everybody Talks About the Weather…

A member of the Geronimo Interagency Hotshot Crew, Department of the Interior (DOI) Indian Affairs (IA) Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) San Carlos Agency in Arizona; on assignment. The combined effects of droughts and insects may lead to a pulse of tree mortality that increases the potential for intense fires. USDA Photo by Lance Cheung.

A member of the Geronimo Interagency Hotshot Crew, Department of the Interior (DOI) Indian Affairs (IA) Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) San Carlos Agency in Arizona; on assignment. The combined effects of droughts and insects may lead to a pulse of tree mortality that increases the potential for intense fires. USDA Photo by Lance Cheung.

The climate statistics for the first month of 2014 have been impressive. Extreme weather has lashed the United States from Alaska to Florida with record warmth, cold, dry and wet conditions all at the same time. The National Climatic Data Center reports that January of 2014 was the driest January on record for New Mexico, 2nd driest for Arizona and 3rd driest for California. January 2014 was also in the top ten of coldest Januaries on record for much of the upper Midwest.

Extreme drought conditions in the western U.S. are dramatically impacting water supplies critical to agriculture and elevating fire risk across our National Forests. Across the continent frequent cold waves have repeatedly threatened winter crops across the Southeast while frost depths reaching several feet will impact springtime planting across the Midwest. This kind of winter gets everyone talking about the weather.  It brings to mind the quote “Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it,” often attributed to Mark Twain (but apparently said by a friend). Read more »

National Forest Works With Florida Officials, Off-Highway Vehicle Users, to Build Trailhead

A trail rider expert from Red Hills Powersports of Tallahassee, Fla., answers questions from a young boy from nearby Crawfordville, Fla., during the grand opening of the Springhill Motorcycle Trailhead.  Forest Service engineers designed the recreational trailhead area to include spacious parking for visitors with trailers to offload motorcycles. (U.S. Forest Service Photo/Susan Blake)

A trail rider expert from Red Hills Powersports of Tallahassee, Fla., answers questions from a young boy from nearby Crawfordville, Fla., during the grand opening of the Springhill Motorcycle Trailhead. Forest Service engineers designed the recreational trailhead area to include spacious parking for visitors with trailers to offload motorcycles. (U.S. Forest Service Photo/Susan Blake)

For many, the “great” in “the great outdoors” answers the call to hit the open road with body, soul and little else except their motorcycle. That got a little easier on the Apalachicola National Forest in Florida with the opening of a new trailhead beckoning riders with easier trail access and opportunity to ride for recreation.

The grand opening of the new Springhill Motorcycle Trailhead south of Tallahassee, Fla., highlights the U.S. Forest Service policy to develop a system of roads, trails and areas designated for motor vehicle use.

The project includes a new, single-span aluminum bridge to connect the forest’s separate motorized northern and southern trails. The prefabricated 90-foot Fisher Creek Bridge, shipped in two sections, replaces an older, antiquated bridge that stretched across the waterway. Read more »

Wetland Provides Sanctuary for People, Wildlife

Kelly McPherson walks the Spanish moss draped trail, where hikers view a variety of wildlife throughout the year. NRCS photo.

Kelly McPherson walks the Spanish moss draped trail, where hikers view a variety of wildlife throughout the year. NRCS photo.

About 20 minutes south of downtown Gainesville, Fla. lies 1,060 acres of fresh water marsh, home to bobcat, wood duck, muskrat, bald eagle, sandhill crane and other wildlife species. This public land features six and a half miles of trails, which weave through Florida’s unique wetland landscape.

But the Levy Prairie wetland basin hasn’t always been a recreation getaway.

In the late 1960s, ranchers built levees around the area, dug canals and continually kept it drained for pastures to raise cattle. Then in 2001, one of the ranchers in the area decided to return the land to its natural state with the help of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). Read more »

Growing Interest in Conservation Careers with USDA

Project Grow students at TERRA Environmental Research Institute are given instruction on the steps required to collect field data used in USDA’s National Resources Inventory (NRI). Photo by: Yolanda Rivera, NRCS Florida.

Project Grow students at TERRA Environmental Research Institute are given instruction on the steps required to collect field data used in USDA’s National Resources Inventory (NRI). Photo by: Yolanda Rivera, NRCS Florida.

Students at a public high school in Florida are receiving some hands-on experience and invaluable mentoring from the staff at USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) as a result of a USDA grant.

Project Grow aims to educate high school students about careers and college education requirements for career positions with NRCS in an agency effort to meet future staffing needs. NRCS is shifting to a younger age group for recruitment to evaluate if it’s effective in raising awareness for potential new staff members. Read more »