New maps reveal the patterns of abundance of sagebrush songbirds, based on Breeding Bird Survey count data combined with sagebrush cover, landform, and climate variables. Shown here is the range-wide relative abundance of Brewer’s sparrow. Map courtesy Patrick Donnelly, IWJV.
The charismatic sage grouse is often in the spotlight as the flagship species in the sagebrush ecosystem. The smaller songbirds that live alongside the grouse don’t always attract as much attention, but they are also good indicators of how the sagebrush range is faring.
Recently, in a project funded by the Sage Grouse Initiative (SGI), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and Intermountain West Joint Venture (IMJV), scientists set out to evaluate whether investments in sage grouse conservation serve as an “umbrella” that extends benefits to other sagebrush-dependent wildlife, too. These findings are summarized in a new Science to Solutions report by SGI, a partnership led by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). Read more »
Corn in Iowa was among the crops across the nation hit hard by the 2012 drought. The rapid response by crop insurance companies to that crisis demonstrated why public-private partnerships are good for today’s agricultural economy.
Farming is in my blood, and I’m proud of that. I grew up on my family’s sheep ranch in northern Utah and managed our raspberry farm before coming to USDA. For the past three years, as Administrator for the Department’s Risk Management Agency (RMA), I’ve sat across the table and listened to producers who, like myself back in Utah, couldn’t find an insurance product for their operation.
Natural disasters and unexpected events make agriculture a risky business, so having a strong safety net is essential for today’s farmers and ranchers. Nobody knows that better than RMA. Read more »
Hydrologist Randy Julander has been managing Utah’s snow survey program for the past 24 years.
“To say I enjoy my job is an understatement,” said Hydrologist Randy Julander. “Monday is my favorite day of the week, because I get to go back to work.”
As the Snow Survey Data Collection Officer in Utah, Julander’s job is a mix of science, adventure and artistry. He weaves information from data. “Data are just numbers on a page; but information – now that’s something meaningful, something that informs decision makers,” he explained. Read more »
A group of Canyon Country Youth Corps from the Four Corners School of Outdoor Education after a day of stringing fenceline. Photo courtesy Four Corners School of Outdoor Education, Jenna Whetzel, Photographer
As a society we do not expect children to learn to write without paper, we do not expect them to learn to cook without access to food, and we certainly would never expect them to learn to read without books. It’s simple: in order to learn, one must have the proper tools and experiences to do so.
At the Four Corners School of Outdoor Education, students and teachers, young and old, learn about conservation and land management by taking part in one of four programs designed to encourage stewardship of the entire Colorado Plateau region. While enrolled in the Canyon Country Youth Corps Program, students are immersed in land management education in order to eventually manage public lands in their own careers. Read more »
50,000 acres of rangeland in North and South Dakota have permanent protection when enrolled into a carbon offset program through a USDA Conservation Innovation Grant. These offsets will be sold on the voluntary market. Photo credit: Scott Bauer.
Environmental markets—the buying and selling of ecosystem services like clean air and water, and wildlife habitat—help more private landowners get conservation on the ground. Markets attract non-Federal funding to conservation, complement USDA’s work with agricultural producers, and can yield natural resource improvement at a lower cost to other approaches.
USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is a Federal leader in supporting the development of environmental markets, largely through its Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) program. Among CIG recipients are one of the earliest and most successful water quality trading programs in Ohio’s Great Miami River watershed and the Ohio River Basin water quality trading program, a recipient of the U.S. Water Prize this year. Also through CIG, USDA hosted an event in November 2014 celebrating a first-of-its-kind transaction—the purchase by Chevrolet of carbon credits generated on ranch lands in North Dakota. Read more »
A native Andrena bee species gathers nectar and pollen from a pear flower (Jim Cane, ARS).
This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.
Dogged by pests, pathogens, poor nutrition, and other problems, the European honey bee is having a rough time these days. The bee pollinates over 90 different kinds of fruit, vegetable and nut crops. These same crops are also pollinated by native bees, particularly on smaller or diversified farms and especially in home gardens. Together, their pollination services are an $18 billion annual asset to U.S. agriculture, and concern over their welfare prompted the White House in May to issue a directive aimed at bolstering their numbers and health through a series of initiatives including improving and expanding pollinator habitat.
Citizen involvement is another component. Among the actions citizens can take is growing nectar- and pollen-rich flowering plants; another is “customizing” garden or landscaping areas to make them more hospitable to these pollinators—especially native bees, says entomologist Jim Cane, with USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Pollinating Insect–Biology, Management, Systematics Research Unit in Logan, Utah. Read more »