Natural resource conservation is paramount to the ongoing strength of our nation. Healthy soil contributes to agricultural productivity. Healthy forests clean our water and air. Vibrant waterways are critical for our health, for transportation and for trade. Investments into conservation spur job growth and community development, particularly in rural areas.
This is an uncertain time for USDA conservation activities. Congress has not yet passed a comprehensive Food, Farm and Jobs Bill that would continue to invest in conservation efforts, while providing rural America with certainty regarding many other important programs.
As we continue urging Congress to provide a new Food, Farm and Jobs Bill, USDA this week took several new steps to strengthen conservation across the country. Read more »
NRCS Soil Scientist Roger Windhorn shows participants the differences in soil layers and what makes a healthy soil.
A recent tour in Livingston, Ill. showcased the successes a powerful partnership has had in the Indian Creek Watershed.
The 6th Annual Conservation in Action Tour was organized by the Conservation Technology Information Center to highlight community efforts in the watershed taking place under the auspices of the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watershed Initiative.
Through the initiative, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and partners work with landowners and farmers to address nutrient loading in priority small watersheds within the Mississippi River Basin. Program participants implement voluntary conservation practices that improve water quality, restore wetlands and enhance wildlife habitat while allowing them to sustain or improve agricultural productivity. Illinois is one of the 13 states included in the initiative. Read more »
This 12-acre constructed wetland provides wildlife habitat for migrating waterfowl and a nesting area for animals.
Editor’s Note: As USDA shares stories of program accomplishments from across the country, Secretary Vilsack continues to remind Americans of the importance of the Farm Bill to many of these efforts. The success of the Wetlands Reserve Program in Iowa and across the nation is another reminder of the importance of Farm Bill programs for rural America. A comprehensive new Food, Farm and Jobs Bill would further expand the rural economy – and Secretary Vilsack continues to urge Congress to pass a comprehensive Food, Farm and Jobs Bill done as soon as possible.
A unique wetland in northeastern Iowa is helping to filter out upland sediment and other agricultural runoff flowing into the Little Cedar River. The wetland, on a farm outside Charles City, is also preserving the land and providing a wildlife haven.
In 2009, landowner Carol Savage enrolled about 70 percent of the 200-acre farm in a permanent easement through the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service Wetlands Reserve Program, in the process expanding an already-present wetland on the property. Read more »
By Paige Buck, Illinois NRCS
The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Illinois is working to get the word out on the new Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) and encourage signup by landowners who may have heard about the program but are still “on the fence.”
CSP is a voluntary conservation program that encourages producers to address resource concerns in a comprehensive manner by undertaking additional conservation activities and improving, maintaining, and managing existing conservation activities.
Kevin Green, conservation farmer and partner of both NRCS and the local Soil and Water Conservation District, is a strong supporter of CSP and helped spread the word about the program by hosting a “CSP Field Day” on his farm in Vermilion County, Illinois. He values CSP because it rewards him for the conservation work he’s already done on his farm and it helps him do even more.
Devin Brown of the Illinois Stewardship Alliance (ISA) helped organize the event. ISA is a strong NRCS partner in Illinois that supports conservation and conservation programs.
The group observed some of Kevin’s easy-to-implement conservation practices and asked Kevin and local NRCS District Conservationists many questions.
As a result, NRCS expects to receive a few more CSP enrollment applications from the local field office. Kudos to Mr. Green and Mr. Brown for a great CSP field day!
Kevin Green (center, pointing) points out one of the many conservation practices on his Vermilion County Illinois farm, which is currently enrolled in NRCS’ Conservation Stewardship Program.
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Dick Tremain, NRCS Iowa
Amy Plavak of Hillsboro, Oregon, used to lead multi-million dollar projects as a certified professional project manager. Now she is one of 36,000 Earth Team volunteers working to improve the environment and restore wetlands which can clean water, reduce flooding and provide wildlife habitat.
Earth Team is the volunteer program of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). NRCS helps private landowners, farmers and ranchers conserve, maintain and improve natural resources and the environment.
Plavak joined the Earth Team and learned about wetlands, the NRCS Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) and worked with NRCS conservationists on soil-saving and water-enhancing projects. She eventually became responsible for updating the wetlands restoration specifications for six WRP projects totaling over 1,000 acres and preparing a detailed agreement and construction bid package for a 350-acre WRP project. Plavak’s volunteer work is credited with saving the government money and allowing the WRP project to be completed on time.
Plavak was the 2009 Earth Team Individual Volunteer Award winner for NRCS.
Michele Eginoire, national Earth Team volunteer coordinator, says all Earth Team volunteers make a difference. “We try to tailor our volunteer jobs to our volunteers’ likes and abilities. Their work can include field work, administrative support and conservation education. Our volunteers are a diverse group 14 years and older who support NRCS conservation efforts,” said Eginoire. “Every Earth Team volunteer makes a contribution and every volunteer has the potential to improve the land as much as Amy Plavak.”
NRCS has over 3,000 offices nationwide. To learn more about being an Earth Team volunteer in your area, call 1-888-LANDCARE.
Earth Team Volunteer Amy Plavak is credited with improving the environment and
saving the government money near her Oregon home.
Ivy Allen, New York NRCSThe Watershed Agriculture Council (WAC) hosted a tour of three farms in the New York City watershed that received American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA) funding. Putting conservation on the ground in this watershed will result in more than 1 billion gallons of clean drinking water for 9 million New York residents every day. Projects featured on the tour included waste storage facilities, compost structures and stream fencing. Along with whole farm plans, these practices will result in reduced waterborne pathogens, nutrients, and sediments.
Through ARRA and an agreement with WAC, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is providing technical and financial assistance to 327 landowners in the New York City watershed who are voluntarily implementing conservation practices and improving water quality. NRCS helps landowners voluntarily participate in conservation programs that protect water and many other natural resources.
USDA-NRCS administered $1 million dollars through ARRA funding to improve water quality within the New York City watershed. The watershed extends 125 miles, contains 19 reservoirs, and 3 lakes. This surface water supply system is one of the largest in the world and the conservation practices being implemented support clean water and a healthy environment.
Stream fencing protects against animal waste and streambank plantings
create a “buffer strip” that filters pollutants from the water.
Small Farm Composter.