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Posts tagged: Regional Conservation Partnership Program

Conservation Efforts Help Protect Longleaf Forests for Future Generations

A private landowner in Hancock County, Miss. is restoring a longleaf pine forest on his land.

A private landowner in Hancock County, Miss. is restoring a longleaf pine forest on his land.

I have a few decorative items on my desk at work, and some of those are longleaf pine cones. Even though I only learned of the rare longleaf pine forest – and the large pine cones that fall in them each year – a few years ago, it was love at first sight.

Longleaf pine forests once covered the coastal landscape of the Southeast, and they’re home to nearly 600 plant and animal species.

But over the past two centuries, development, timbering and fire suppression reduced the longleaf’s range by almost 97 percent. And many groups, including USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), are working to save and restore this landscape. According to the America’s Longleaf Restoration Initiative, longleaf forests have increased from about 3 million acres to about 4.4 million acres in recent years, reversing a century-long decline across the region. Read more »

Conservation as a Source of Innovative Partnerships for All

Agriculture Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden tours rice fields in the Sacramento Valley at the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area on Jun. 24, 2014. Rice grower Mike DeWit has a cooperative arrangement to provide habitat for wildlife while growing rice. Photo courtesy California Rice Commission.

Agriculture Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden tours rice fields in the Sacramento Valley at the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area on Jun. 24, 2014. Rice grower Mike DeWit has a cooperative arrangement to provide habitat for wildlife while growing rice. Photo courtesy California Rice Commission.

This summer, USDA is highlighting partnerships to invest in the future of rural America. Our partners work with us year after year to leverage resources and grow economic opportunities. They are the key to ensuring our rural communities thrive. Follow more of our stories at #RuralPartners.

My passion and commitment for conservation started on the farm learning from our first and finest conservationists:  American farmers. Our nation’s farmers and ranchers care deeply about the land, which is why they are incredible environmental stewards. Earlier this month, I visited the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area, a popular wildlife refuge just minutes from downtown Sacramento. Here, farmers like the DeWit family are growing rice and providing some of the best wildlife habitat in North America.

Mike DeWit and his father, Jack, brought me right into the middle of the Sacramento Valley rice fields, where more than a half million acres are used as a source of America’s sushi rice. Equally valuable is the role these rice fields play as a habitat for nearly 230 wildlife species, including providing nearly sixty percent of the winter diet for millions of migrating ducks and geese. It was a thrill to walk on the levee of a shallow-flooded, brilliantly green field and observe several pairs of nesting American Avocets all around. When I noticed a nest with four small eggs, I knew that it represented a part of the future generation of wildlife. Read more »

USDA Conservation Funding Helps Provide Protection for Great Lakes

A youngster relaxes on a piece of driftwood, watching the beautiful sunset over Lake Michigan. Photo by Tom Gill.

A youngster relaxes on a piece of driftwood, watching the beautiful sunset over Lake Michigan. Photo by Tom Gill.

I have the Great Lakes in my blood. Born and raised on the shores of Lake Huron, my sisters and I spent countless summer days playing in the water and running along the beaches of soft singing sand.

The Au Sable River, a clear blue ribbon trout stream, empties into Lake Huron in Oscoda, Mich., my hometown. We canoed the river frequently, noticing eel-like lampreys undulate menacingly upstream in the water beneath our paddles.

We carefully maneuvered past sunken logs, remnants of the logging era, to avoid tipping and spilling into the water, imagining that this hideous creature with its huge circular, tooth-lined mouth would affix itself painfully, firmly and fatally onto our flesh! Read more »

The More Conservation for the Illinois and Macinaw Rivers – the Better

Tim Malone, center, is a NRCS district conservationist in Tazewell County, Ill. Here he leads a watershed tour. (NRCS photo)

Tim Malone, center, is a NRCS district conservationist in Tazewell County, Ill. Here he leads a watershed tour. (NRCS photo)

Rivers are special places, and for me, the Illinois and Macinaw rivers in central Illinois are my special places. Both rivers eventually send their waters to the Mississippi River, and the area provides habitat for wildlife as well as recreational opportunities like hunting and fishing.

But the rivers suffer from streambank erosion, soil erosion, sedimentation and nutrient runoff. We all hear about the hypoxic zone in the Gulf of Mexico at the mouth of the Mississippi, which is caused by high levels of nutrients in the water.

Water quality is important to me as a conservationist and motivates me as a conservationist. I am interested in conservation and wildlife habitat – both as a citizen that enjoys the outdoors as well as my job as a district conservationist in Tazewell County, Ill. with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). Read more »

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 »