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Posts tagged: NRCS

Secretary’s Column: Supporting Cutting Edge Conservation

This week, USDA and its partners launched a new conservation initiative, the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), a program that goes beyond traditional government support for conservation and allows businesses and other for-profit partners to invest in regional conservation projects. RCPP takes conservation off the farm and out of the forest and moves it into the board room.

The RCPP will competitively award funds to conservation projects designed by local partners and specifically tailored to local needs. Eligible partners include private companies, universities, non-profit organizations, local and tribal governments and others joining with agricultural and conservation organizations and producers to invest money, manpower and materials to their proposed initiatives. Read more »

A Wetland Returns to its “Roots” Through a Conservation Easement

The South Branch Prairie shows vibrant native grasses two years after its restoration. DeKalb County Forest Preserve District photo.

The South Branch Prairie shows vibrant native grasses two years after its restoration. DeKalb County Forest Preserve District photo.

If the land floods more often than growing a crop, why not let it go back to what it wants to be – a wetland. That’s what happened on the Hoppe Heritage Farmstead in 2011. The Hoppe sisters owned cropland along the southern branch of the Kishwaukee River in DeKalb County, Ill. About half of the land would flood on a regular basis.

After several years of dealing with the floods, the sisters decided to do something about it. They sold the homestead to the DeKalb County Forest Preserve District, which preserves and restores landscapes and their plant and animal life.

Terry Hannan, the forest preserve’s superintendent, contacted USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service about a conservation easement as a possible opportunity to improve the land. Read more »

Restored Wetland Doubles as Outdoor Classroom for High School Students

Swales, like this one, were created throughout the wetland to hold water after a rain event, which in turn helps aid in flood storage, enhances plant diversity and provides habitat for wildlife. NRCS photo.

Swales, like this one, were created throughout the wetland to hold water after a rain event, which in turn helps aid in flood storage, enhances plant diversity and provides habitat for wildlife. NRCS photo.

A 53-acre conservation easement is an ideal environmental learning lab for students at Francis Hugh Wardlaw Academy in Johnston, South Carolina.  The land was once pastures for cattle, but now it’s a vibrant wetland just across the street from the high school.

The contractor hired to install the restoration work, Charles Kemp, was instrumental in involving the school’s students in creating and managing the wetland. “These students are exploring what a career in agriculture or environmental science would be like, and they love being outside and escaping the confines of the classroom,” Kemp said.

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service provided technical and financial assistance to develop the restoration plan, and install the structures and earthwork to convert the wet pasture into a functioning wetland. Read more »

Under Secretary Bonnie Visits South Carolina to See Longleaf Partnerships

USDA Under Secretary Robert Bonnie listens to Mary Hill, a retired school superintendent and Center for Heirs’ Property Preservation Sustainable Forestry Program participant. Hill owns more than 80 acres of land and timber in Berkeley County adjacent to the Francis Marion National Forest. Forest Service photo.

USDA Under Secretary Robert Bonnie listens to Mary Hill, a retired school superintendent and Center for Heirs’ Property Preservation Sustainable Forestry Program participant. Hill owns more than 80 acres of land and timber in Berkeley County adjacent to the Francis Marion National Forest. Forest Service photo.

The longleaf pine ecosystem is one of the most diverse in the world. It provides habitat to nearly 900 plant species and 29 federally-listed threatened or endangered species. It’s prized for its valuable timber and its strength against disease, pests and damaging storms.

But longleaf pine forests are now rare since their original range of 90 million acres has waned to just a few million. USDA and other partners are working to change this.

USDA Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment Robert Bonnie recently traveled to South Carolina to meet with USDA employees and conservation partners. Bonnie toured private and public lands where the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service and the U.S. Forest Service have recently protected and restored thousands of acres of longleaf forests. Read more »

Partnerships and Volunteers Bring a Midwest Wetland to Life

The wetland in bloom with a more than 100-year-old oak tree standing prominently in the prairie. Natural Land Institute photo.

The wetland in bloom with a more than 100-year-old oak tree standing prominently in the prairie. Natural Land Institute photo.

Now, when you look at the Nygren Wetland Preserve in Illinois, a menagerie of wildlife can be seen –  ducks and geese paddling about, white pelicans lounging, otters swimming and a pair of sandhill cranes huddling in a nest. There was talk of the endangered blanding turtles living in the wetland, too. It’s a wonderful scene, but it was much different 14 years ago.

The land, located along Raccoon Creek at the confluence of the Rock and Pecatonica rivers, was once forests and crops. The Natural Land Institute purchased the land in 1999, and that’s when transformation began. Read more »

USDA Announces Support to Improve Water Quality in Targeted Watersheds

Andreas Farm installed a buffer to help improve water quality. NRCS photo.

Andreas Farm installed a buffer to help improve water quality. NRCS photo.

Running an economical and environmentally friendly dairy operation is a tough job but Andreas Farms is dedicated to meeting the challenge. That challenge involves running an efficient milking operation of more than 1,500 dairy cows while also managing tons of animal waste.

Dan Andreas is a dairy man who runs the successful operation that produces 38 million pounds of milk each year, and he’s a conservationist who strives to protect his hometown’s watershed. The East Branch South Fork Sugar Creek watershed is one of three priority Ohio watersheds that are in critical need of water quality improvements. Read more »