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Posts tagged: Washington State

Homeownership and Independence Day Go Together Like Baseball and Apple Pie

Closing out National Homeownership Month on June 30, 2014, RHS Administrator Tony Hernandez inside the home with new homeowners, Jay Pauley and Johanna Mansfield, along with Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler, representing Southwest Washington's 3rd Congressional District, at the Lower Columbia Community Action Program (LCCAP) Self-Help Housing Project in Castle Rock, Wash. Photo by Phil Eggman.

Closing out National Homeownership Month on June 30, 2014, RHS Administrator Tony Hernandez inside the home with new homeowners, Jay Pauley and Johanna Mansfield, along with Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler, representing Southwest Washington's 3rd Congressional District, at the Lower Columbia Community Action Program (LCCAP) Self-Help Housing Project in Castle Rock, Wash. Photo by Phil Eggman.

This year, Independence Day will be even more meaningful for tens of thousands of families across the nation. With financing assistance from USDA, they will be able to gather their loved ones in their own homes and back yards to celebrate the holiday as homeowners.

As the Administrator for USDA’s housing programs, I spent the past weeks celebrating National Homeownership Month with rural families who are achieving the American Dream with USDA assistance. On the final day of the month-long celebration, I joined families who are now constructing their homes through USDA’s Mutual Self-Help program, as well as another group of families moving into their new homes just in time to celebrate the Fourth of July. Read more »

Final Yearly Snowpack Forecast Divides West into a Wet North and Dry South

NRCS Oregon Hydrologist Julie Koeberle helps Soil Scientist Thor Thorson calculate current water content in snow. NRCS photo.

NRCS Oregon Hydrologist Julie Koeberle helps Soil Scientist Thor Thorson calculate current water content in snow. NRCS photo.

Every winter Westerners look to the mountains and may not realize they’re peering into the future. More snow cap means more water come spring and summer. Many lives and livelihoods depend on nature’s uneven hand.

Thanks to USDA’s National Water and Climate Center, what used to be speculation is now science. Through a network of high-elevation weather stations across the West, the center accurately forecasts how much water Western states will receive from snowmelt.

The data benefits everyone in the path of the streamflow. The center’s water supply forecasts empower states to take action to prevent flooding or prepare for drought. Some farmers look to the water supply forecast when deciding what crops to grow. It’s like playing chess with nature, and you can almost see nature’s next move. Read more »

West Coast Forests Celebrate International Migratory Bird Day

(L-R) Joey Russell, a wildlife artist and the president of the Audubon Society’s Mt. Shasta Chapter and Klamath National Forest staff Greg Berner and Lauren McChesney look at waterfowl on Bass Lake of the Shasta Valley Wildlife Area.  (U.S. Forest Service/Sam Cuenca)

(L-R) Joey Russell, a wildlife artist and the president of the Audubon Society’s Mt. Shasta Chapter and Klamath National Forest staff Greg Berner and Lauren McChesney look at waterfowl on Bass Lake of the Shasta Valley Wildlife Area. (U.S. Forest Service/Sam Cuenca)

‘Tis the season for migratory birds to make their journey north. Forests along the Pacific Flyway, which stretches from Alaska to Central and South America, recently celebrated International Migratory Bird Day with educational activities, conservation efforts and birdwatching trips.

Staff from the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest and the Forest Service’s International Programs hosted an educational event at Camp Casey in Coupeville, Wash., that attracted 120 people of all ages who participated in interactive activities where they learned about migratory birds. In one activity, attendees took on the role of migratory birds to learn about the difficulties the birds face during migration. Their goal? To safely reach their next stop along the migration route. The first round was easy, no obstacles. The second round, a hunter was introduced and with each ensuing round, migration became more difficult. Habitats started disappearing and predators started increasing, catching larger numbers of birds. Elders, teens and youngsters alike all participated in this lively, competitive game to learn just how hard it is for birds to migrate long distances. Read more »

Forester Says Variety in the Job Created His Trail

Dick Fitzgerald, Forest Management Assistant Director for the Forest Service, says it’s the variety of work and working with the highly-educated sharp young folk in the agency that contributes to his joy of the work challenge. (U.S. Forest Service)

Dick Fitzgerald, Forest Management Assistant Director for the Forest Service, says it’s the variety of work and working with the highly-educated sharp young folk in the agency that contributes to his joy of the work challenge. (U.S. Forest Service)

When a forester embraces the various challenges of his job – such as timber management, building roads, squelching wildfires or perhaps even national policy issues – you can count on the variety of experiences and the ever-changing nature of the job to provide interest.

For Dick Fitzgerald, currently the agency’s assistant director of forest management in the Washington Office, it became a 57-year career and running. He began by working summers in a fire lookout before becoming full time as a junior forester, as it was known in those days. He also worked as a district ranger, managed timber sales and served as a regional silviculturist in two of the agency’s nine regions.

“Each job has had its challenges,” Fitzgerald said. “During my first jobs, I was out in the country in places where a lot of folks had never been locating and developing roads to support the mission. Working as a district ranger, I worked with the public from local areas, trying to balance a forest’s timber or range or recreation agenda.” Read more »

Western USDA Water Supply Forecast Tracks Melting Snowpack

Snowmelt on Mount Hood sends ample water down a stream in Oregon. NRCS photo.

Snowmelt on Mount Hood sends ample water down a stream in Oregon. NRCS photo.

April storms delivered a mix of rain and snow to the northern half of the West but didn’t provide much relief for the dry southern half, according to the latest USDA water supply forecast.

Washington, most of Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, and the northern parts of Colorado and Utah, are expected to have near normal or above normal water supplies, according to the forecasts from the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s National Water and Climate Center (NWCC).  Streamflows that are far below normal are forecast for the southern parts of Oregon and Utah, southwestern Idaho, California, Arizona, New Mexico and western Nevada. Read more »

Rural Electric Cooperatives: Leaders in Renewable Energy

America’s rural electric cooperatives provide electricity to more than 42 million people living and working in rural communities across the country. Co-ops, with support from USDA, have embraced renewable energy production. Today, they deepened that commitment by announcing new solar projects that will generate more than 150 megawatts of new solar capacity by 2020.

At an event in California, President Obama was joined by two West Coast industry leaders—Plumas-Sierra Rural Electric Cooperative (PSREC) based in Portola, California, and Okanogan County Electric Cooperative (OCEC), based in the state of Washington—to highlight industry efforts to expand renewable energy production.

USDA has been an advocate and partner in co-ops’ efforts to diversify their portfolios and expand their renewable fuel sources. Since 2009, USDA has funded over $1 billion in renewable energy projects that will generate  more than 447 MW – enough energy to power 160,603 American homes annually. Read more »