USDA Deputy Undersecretary Ann Mills (ninth from left) visits with Leopold Conservation Award winners at USDA last week. USDA photo.
“Water conservation begins where the first drop of rain falls…most likely on private working lands.” This is a favorite saying of Tom Vandivier, a Texas cattle rancher and 2008 recipient of the Sand County Foundation’s Leopold Conservation Award (LCA).
Tom was one of more than two dozen recipients of the LCA – which recognized landowners for achievement in environmental improvement on agricultural land – in Washington, D.C. last week. I was fortunate to meet with them here at USDA headquarters to talk about the importance of conservation and the need to spread the message that investing in conservation practices on our farm and ranch lands not only protects water, air and wildlife – it also makes economic sense. Read more »
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.
As a major underground water source, the Ogallala Aquifer plays a key role in the economic vitality of vast stretches of the rural Midwest. The aquifer covers around 225,000 square miles in 8 states from South Dakota to Texas, supplying 30 percent of all U.S. groundwater used for irrigation.
But as with other natural resources that seem inexhaustible, the aquifer is effectively a nonrenewable resource. Demand from agricultural, municipal and industrial development on the Great Plains has meant that water is pumped out of a large portion of the aquifer much more quickly than it can ever be replenished. Read more »
Chuck Petersen, NRCS rangeland management specialist (left), and Reggie Premo, Shoshone-Paiute Tribal member, discuss future conservation plans on Premo’s ranch located on the Duck Valley Reservation in Nevada. USDA photo.
On the Duck Valley Reservation of the Shoshone-Paiute Tribes, alfalfa and cattle are the two major agricultural enterprises of the 289,000-acre reservation near the border of Idaho and Nevada.
Reggie Premo, a member of the Shoshone-Paiute, raises cattle and grows alfalfa on the same land where he grew up. Premo works with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service to use water wisely.
When his father passed away in 2001, he took over the day-to-day ranching operations. He immediately began working to get all of the ranch’s acreage back into production. It’s taken a team effort. Read more »
By Mary Ann McQuinn, Georgia NRCS
NRCS joined the Ohoopee Conservation District and the Pine Country Resource Conservation and Development Council (RC&D) to celebrate and honor Mr. Jim L. Gillis, Jr., — at 93, the longest serving conservation district board member in the Nation. NRCS Regional Assistant Chief Leonard Jordan presented Mr. Gillis with a unique art glass recognizing his 70 years of conservation leadership.
Mr. Gillis was a founding member of the Ohoopee River Soil and Water Conservation District and remains its Chairman to this day. He was also an inaugural member of the National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD) Hall of Fame. Mr. Gillis witnessed the early days of NRCS, which is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year.
While relaxing in a rocking chair on the back porch of a pond house, and inside by the fireplace, he shared knowledge from his 70-year career and insights on founder and conservation legend Hugh Hammond Bennett. He reminisced about the conservation challenges and solutions from the Great Depression to today, and shared his thoughts about future challenges such as energy production and water conservation. Donnie Smith, Director of the Center for Agriculture Innovation, personally delivered a proclamation from the Governor designating Conservation Day in Georgia.
Mr. Gillis manages over 12,000 acres of timberland, and is well respected throughout the Southeast for his timber management program. It was indeed our honor to thank this conservation legend for all that he’s done for the natural resources of Georgia.
NRCS Regional Assistant Chief Leonard Jordan (left) learns from 70 years of conservation experience of Jim. L. Gillis, Jr. (right)
Jim. L. Gillis relaxing in a rocking chair.