Clifton and NRCS soil conservationist Brooke Brittingham review a conservation plan on his plant and flood wildlife habitat enhancement project. Photo: Dastina Wallace, NRCS
Muffled honking above draws wildlife painter Richard Clifton’s eyes to the sky. Flying overhead is a flock of nearly 30 snow geese preparing to land nearby in Clifton’s crop field in Milton, Delaware. In early March, this is a common scene due to his unique wetland ‘plant and flood’ restoration project that enhances wildlife habitat and production.
Clifton’s farming background combined with his love of duck hunting and passion for painting wildlife gives him a unique perspective on habitat enhancement. Growing up on a farm, as did his father and many generations before him, he recognizes the need to keep his fields in production agriculture. However, as an avid duck hunter, he wants additional habitat, food and breeding grounds for wildlife―all of which inspire his award-winning wildlife paintings. 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 »
After one year, the pollinator garden has grown exponentially, feeding multiple species of pollinators and creating an outdoor classroom. NRCS photo by Ellen Starr.
The pollinator garden at our library in Princeton, Ill. is a popular rest stop for monarch butterflies on their cross-continental journey. My agency, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), worked with local partners and businesses to create a 2,400-square-foot pollinator garden as a way to educate the public and provide needed pollinator habitat.
We planted the garden designed by our landscape architect Vicki Morrical in 2014. It features 28 plant species and more than 700 plants. Signs help visitors identify the different plants. Read more »
Southern Appalachian Brook Trout spawn in the Fall when brightly colored males court females, who dig nests known as redds in clean streambed gravels. (Copyright photo courtesy Freshwaters Illustrated/Dave Herasimtschuk)
For a community of brook trout in the southern Appalachian mountains, there are signs that the good times are coming back. To some, these native inhabitants might even appear to be waving a welcome home sign.
Their numbers almost vanquished, they are as much a cultural emblem of these rugged and lush mountain forests as they are an important signal for the highest quality drinking water. This is what makes their fate of such interest to the millions who live in the surrounding watersheds and to those involved in an inspiring partnership to help them along. They are also the subject of a new film, “Bringing Back the Brooks: Reviving the South’s Trout” produced by Freshwaters Illustrated in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service. Read more »
The Eastern hellbender is the largest salamander in North America, reaching lengths of up to 24 inches. Hellbenders need clean streams with high water quality and silt-free streambeds to find their prey and avoid predators. (Copyright photo courtesy Freshwaters Illustrated/Dave Herasimtschuk)
Hiding beneath a pile of rocks in a clear mountain stream flowing from the Pisgah National Forest in North Carolina lurks North America’s largest salamander, the Eastern hellbender. It is also locked in battle between its perilous decline and valiant struggle for survival.
Sediment from runoff, prescription and over-the-counter therapeutic and veterinary drugs, personal care products such as soaps, fragrances and cosmetics, other chemical pollutants, and the physical disturbance of its rocky lairs by unknowing recreationalists are all suspects contributing to the hellbender’s decline. Read more »
Invertebrates are an important food source for native waterbirds, including endangered ae‘o (Hawaiian Stilt, Himantopus mexicanus knudseni) chicks. (U.S. Forest Service/Rich MacKenzie)
Coastal wetlands the world over are known for harboring an impressive array of plants and animals. In the Pacific Islands, wetlands not only provide habitat for many unique species, including some threatened and endangered waterbirds, but also support communities of people who rely on these special places for food and other essentials.
Human development, agriculture, and rising seas are encroaching upon these wetland ecosystems and causing visible and profound changes. Another threat, less obvious to the casual observer, lurks beneath the water’s surface: non-native fish. Researchers with the U.S. Forest Service Pacific Southwest Research Station’s Institute of Pacific Islands Forestry are studying the threats posed by exotic fish species and working with partners to battle the gilled invaders. Read more »