An aerial view of mastication efforts to remove pinyon and juniper trees encroaching in bi-state sage grouse habitat on a Smith Valley rancher’s Bureau of Land Management grazing allotment, east of Minden, Nevada. The pinyon and juniper removal is part of an NRCS Sage Grouse Initiative project near the Conifer Forum field tour location. (Photo courtesy NRCS)
Bi-state sage-grouse, a geographically distinct population of small game bird that lives along the border of Nevada and California, rely on a healthy sagebrush ecosystem. One of the largest habitat threats to the sage-grouse is the encroachment of pinyon and juniper trees.
Once pinyon and juniper trees move into a sagebrush-steppe area, they act simultaneously like straws and umbrellas — sucking out what little water hits the soil, while providing a canopy to catch rainfall so little moisture reaches the plants and shrubs below the trees. Little by little, the trees can close in on an area, squeezing out precious habitat for the sage-grouse. They also deter sage-grouse from landing in the area, as the birds are frightful of these tall, foreign objects that interrupt their flight path and provide a perch for predators. Read more »
Miller Grove students inspecting the plants as they go into the soil. NRCS photo.
As teams of agriculturalists across America celebrated National Agricultural Day on March 18, a group of volunteers and professionals arrived at Miller Grove Middle School in Lithonia, Georgia. They were there to give a hands-on outdoor lesson on how to build, plant and maintain a school garden to a group of Atlanta metro-area students who have likely never experienced what it’s like to grow their own food.
On this made-to-order, cool and clear morning, just two days before the official start to spring, U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Dr. Joe Leonard was the first to share remarks. He began by thanking Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack for his commitment to providing community gardens to underserved communities. “Miller Grove School is a perfect example of how partnerships between the federal government (USDA’s Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights and Natural Resource Conservation Service), non-profit organizations (The Stewart Foundation and Two Rivers Resource Conservation and Development Council) and the DeKalb County School District can work together on behalf of children.” Read more »
Along with growing and selling commercial hay to supplement his income, Ken Sills also spends his time raising and racing pigeons. Sills shares a photo of himself as a kid alongside his dad. NRCS photo.
Ken Sills has had difficulties getting water to his hayfields for years, impacting his ability to use his Grand Junction, Colorado land efficiently.
“I just couldn’t get irrigation to the back of my place,” Sills said. “I tried a ditch and siphon tubes, but there were areas that were not getting water, so that’s when I went to the NRCS.”
In his quest for help, he found USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and staff there helped him install an efficient irrigation system. The system included an above-ground conveyance system, gated piping and a small concrete distribution structure that now provides irrigation water to about five acres of grass hay. Read more »
Flood control and prevention tour participants (L-R) NRCS State Engineer Tim Haakenstad, NRD Assistant General Manager Marlin Petermann, Under Secretary Robert Bonnie, State Conservationist Craig Derickson and NRCS District Conservationist Neil Jensen. NRCS photo.
The saying, “When it rains, it pours,” can often apply to the heavy rain events in Omaha, Neb. where flooding is a concern. Due to the large amount of hard surfaces – roofs, parking lots, streets, etc. – a lot of the rainfall doesn’t soak into the ground. This generates runoff, which can quickly lead to flooding.
On a recent tour, Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment Robert Bonnie was able to see firsthand how the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service’s (NRCS) flood control projects are helping to protect lives and property in Omaha. Read more »
Lisa Maslach, school counselor; Judy Halterman, Veggies for Kids Program; and Staci Emm, with the Extension, discuss planting techniques and strategies at Yerington Elementary School. NRCS photo by Heather Emmons.
Above the sounds of whirring drills and nails being hammered into wood planks, squeals of excitement and oohs and ahhs emanated from Yerington Elementary School students as they filed past the hoop house being built on their way to the lunchroom.
March is National Nutrition Month, so it only seems fitting that three rural elementary schools in Nevada had hoop houses installed in late February and early March as part of a partnership among USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, University of Nevada Cooperative Extension and Urban Roots Americorps. Read more »
NRCS staff participated in a cover crop field day in Merced County, California as part of its tour of the state to look at ways farmers can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and store carbon on their lands. NRCS photo by Kari Cohen.
Staff from USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) from Washington, D.C. and Portland, Oregon visited California recently to meet with state officials and farmers and ranchers to discuss how farms and ranches can store carbon, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and potentially benefit financially by providing greenhouse gas offsets under California’s cap-and-trade program.
Also along for the trip were researchers from Colorado State University, who partnered with NRCS to develop USDA’s greenhouse gas accounting tool called COMET-FARM. The tool enables producers and technical specialists to estimate the beneficial impacts of implementing conservation practices that store carbon or reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Read more »