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Posts tagged: NRCS

USDA Scientists, Volunteers Map Soils under New Jersey’s Barnegat Bay

Man and woman at Barnegat Bay

Barnegat Bay is one of 28 estuaries across the country classified as nationally significant.

Soil scientists don’t just map what’s under our feet but what’s below the water’s surface, too. Scientists with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) are mapping and documenting the permanently submerged subaqueous soils of Barnegat Bay, a troubled estuary in New Jersey that is home to environmentally-sensitive habitats.

The bay’s ecosystem has degraded over the years from pollution, human development and other causes. NRCS soil scientists are now working an inventory of the bay’s soils that will identify the sources of the estuary’s decline and aid in its restoration.

To make this happen, NRCS is collecting vibracores and field notes and describing soil samples as part of mapping the floor of the bay. Vibracores are samples of underwater soils collected in tubes. Read more »

In the West, Preparing for Uncertain Water Supply

The April 1 Snowpack Map shows the dramatic, early reduction in snowpack across the West.

The April 1 Snowpack Map shows the dramatic, early reduction in snowpack across the West.

“Well, this shouldn’t take long,” Dr. David Garen said as I sat down to interview him about April snowpack conditions. “March was warm and dry. Spring came early and the snowpack is already melting across most of the West. The End.”

Garen is a hydrologist with the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service. Among other duties, he creates forecast maps and helps write the West-wide forecast summary for the Snow Survey Program.

“This year we had record low snowpack up and down the West Coast,” said Garen. “But even in the areas that had normal snowpack, it’s melting earlier than usual.” Historically, April 1st is when the snowpack peaks. This year has been different. Read more »

A Tool Helps Farmers, Conservationists Measure Cover Crop Economics

The cover crop tool is an Excel spreadsheet developed for easy use. Click to enlarge.

The cover crop tool is an Excel spreadsheet developed for easy use. Click to enlarge.

What happens when you get two energized agriculture economists together? Possibly one of the best economic tools out there for farmers using or considering cover crops. The Cover Crop Economics Decision Support Tool, an Excel spreadsheet, was created by two economists with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service – Bryon Kirwan in Illinois and Lauren Cartwright in Missouri. The tool has taken off with great success, and the second version was released last fall.

“Where this tool has landed is not what we initially envisioned,” said Kirwan. “We wanted to build a tool valuable for producers and planners locally, and we have received many positive comments. Then it took off.” Read more »

Longleaf Pine Savanna Helps Educate Farmers, Others on Value of Forest

Longleaf pine is resistant to pests and disease, withstands drought and provides habitat for a host of wildlife. NRCS photo by Renee Bodine.

Longleaf pine is resistant to pests and disease, withstands drought and provides habitat for a host of wildlife. NRCS photo by Renee Bodine.

The Nature Conservancy’s Apalachicola Bluffs and Ravines Preserve, an hour west of Tallahassee, Florida, protects nearly 6,300 acres of restored sandhill habitat. Young longleaf pines stand in thick waves of golden wiregrass. Wild turkey, bobwhite quail, gopher tortoise and Florida pine snake once again populate what 25 years ago were rows of industrial timber and bare sand.

About 50 people recently toured the preserve to see for themselves the beauty and benefits of the longleaf pine, many of them landowners interested in restoring stands on their properties.  They learned how The Nature Conservancy hand planted millions of longleaf pine seedlings and wiregrass plugs.

Foresters from Florida Forest Service explained how regular prescribed burns promoted the growth of native groundcover and kept hardwood and invasive species in check. Biologists from Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission discussed how wildlife is managed in longleaf pine forests. Read more »

A Bunny’s Tale: Protecting New England Cottontail Habitat on Cape Cod

A New England cottontail is a candidate for listing under the Endangered Species Act. Photo by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

A New England cottontail is a candidate for listing under the Endangered Species Act. Photo by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Cape Cod’s beautiful seashore, inlets, salt marshes and woodlands are a natural draw for year-round and vacation home owners, and tourists. A boon for the local economy, the associated development is not so good for an elusive little creature: the New England cottontail rabbit. Habitat loss has New England’s only native rabbit as a candidate for listing under the Endangered Species Act.

Private landowners, conservation groups, a tribe and government agencies have joined forces to restore New England Cottontail habitat throughout New England. In Mashpee, Mass., on Cape Cod, habitat restoration work at three sites is yielding results. Read more »

Arkansas Conservation Partners Have a Big Impact in the St. Francis River Watershed

Fred Stuckey, of Stuckey Farms Partnership, reviews his conservation plan with Chris Culver, the local NRCS district conservationist in Poinsett County. NRCS photo.

Fred Stuckey, of Stuckey Farms Partnership, reviews his conservation plan with Chris Culver, the local NRCS district conservationist in Poinsett County. NRCS photo.

The St. Francis River in Missouri and Arkansas has suffered for years from turbidity, or cloudy water caused by runoff of sediment, but thanks to the dedication of government and non-government groups as well as farmers, the river’s water quality is improving.

Two segments in Arkansas were listed in 2006 as an impaired waterway under the Clean Water Act because of poor water quality. But in 2014, following years of focused conservation work, the two segments were removed from the impaired waterway list because water quality had greatly improved. Read more »