A watershed in the Stanislaus National Forest, located in the Sierra Nevada region of California. Photo credit: US Forest Service
The mission of the Forest Service is to “sustain the health, diversity and productivity of the Nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations.” The provisioning of water resources – notably clean drinking water and flood control – is central to this. Growing demand for our water resources, spurred by population growth, and the effects of climate change further challenge the Forest Service to successfully meet the needs of present and future generations.
In the western United States – where water flowing from national forests makes up nearly two-thirds of public and commercial water supplies – water scarcity and wildfire threats have galvanized diverse stakeholders to invest in healthy headwaters. Local communities, public utility companies, businesses, non-governmental organizations and state and local agencies are investing in watershed restoration to avoid catastrophic economic losses. Read more »
A recent survey commissioned by WAFWA shows lesser prairie-chicken numbers climbed 25 percent between 2014 and 2015. NRCS photo.
The population of the lesser prairie-chicken is on the rise, according to survey results released last week by the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA). Based on aerial surveys, biologists estimate the lesser prairie-chicken numbers about 29,000, a 25 percent increase from 2014.
WAFWA commissioned the annual survey, which showed increases in three of the four ecoregions the bird inhabits. The sand sage prairie region of southeastern Colorado showed the biggest gain with about a 75 percent increase between 2014 and 2015. Read more »
Ponderosa pines stand tall in front of Yosemite Falls in California. Photo by Kevin Potter, USFS.
It can reach heights of 200 feet and live 500 years, and occupies landscapes across the western United States. Some say its bark has an unforgettable smell resembling vanilla or even cinnamon, and this tree is one tough cookie. It grows in a variety of soils and climates and survives fires that consume other species. It is also an ecologically and economically valuable tree that provides food, habitat and ponderous (heavy) lumber.
It is the iconic ponderosa pine. But the world is changing, and ponderosa pine is vulnerable to climate shifts, high-intensity wildfires and bark beetles — as well as development that replaces trees. To keep the ponderosa pine standing tall, researchers are looking for answers in its genes. Read more »
Verity Ulibarri is the vice president for Farm Credit of New Mexico and a board director for the Sorghum Checkoff. Ulibarri is a fifth-generation farmer who always wanted to be a farmer.
Meet Verity Ulibarri
Family values have proven to be the source of Verity Ulibarri’s success. As the vice president for Farm Credit of New Mexico and a board director for the Sorghum Checkoff, the sorghum producer from New Mexico is making strides in the agriculture industry.
Ulibarri, a fifth-generation farmer, said she always wanted to be a farmer. She and her husband, Anthony, started their own farming operation in 2011. They grow sorghum and wheat and run stocker cattle on approximately 1,700 acres of land. Read more »
Robert L. DeVelice, a vegetation ecologist on the Chugach National Forest, monitors invasive plants. (Forest Service photo)
Vegetation ecologists play an essential role in the U.S. Forest Service. They research the abundance and location of flora in their region as well as the factors that influence how the plants flourish. All nine Forest Service regions and most forests have ecologists on staff, representing a variety of interests. Some ecologists are fascinated by fungi, while others focus on lichens, wildflowers and other elements of biodiversity. In addition, plant ecologists and botanists provide quite a bit of support to the other disciplines and program areas within the Forest Service.
Robert L. DeVelice, a vegetation ecologist on the Chugach National Forest, fits the role well. His wealth of education, experience and personal interests have benefited both the forest and the local community. He grew up in New Mexico, received a Bachelor of Science in forestry from the University of Montana, a Masters in agronomy with a focus on forest soils from New Mexico State University, and a Ph.D. in plant ecology. When he arrived in Alaska in 1992, he was quite interested in native plants, their distribution and ecological occurrences across the landscape. Read more »
NRCS Chief Jason Weller (far right) completes his tour of acequias in New Mexico at the oldest continuously functioning acequia in the United States – the Acequia de Chamita, near Espanola, New Mexico – in operation since 1597. With Chief Weller are (left to right) Gilbert Borrego, NRCS New Mexico Acequia Civil Engineering Technician; Kenny Salazar, President of the New Mexico Association of Conservation Districts; and Bren van Dyke, First Vice President of the National Association of Conservation Districts. Photo by Rey T. Adame.
Last week, I visited with local communities in northern New Mexico. Many of these communities rely on irrigation ditches, called acequias, as their primary water source in an otherwise arid region. These are ditches that were used by their parents, and their grandparents, and their great-grand parents. Some acequias in the area date back more than 400 years.
Through the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), NRCS is working with acequia communities and partners across the state of New Mexico to improve water quality, water quantity, and boost the overall health of these local irrigation ditches that so many rural American communities depend on. The Acequia San Rafael del Guique, for example, provides water for roughly 150 people in the Ohkay Owengeh and El Guique communities – it’s being revitalized as part of our RCPP project in the state. Read more »