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Posts tagged: watershed

Rocky Mountain Wetland Provides Fen-tastic Habitat for High Altitude Plants, Wildlife

Plant data is collected from a fen that sits at 11,000 feet near Mount Emmons on the Gunnison National Forest in Colorado. (U.S. Forest Service)

Plant data is collected from a fen that sits at 11,000 feet near Mount Emmons on the Gunnison National Forest in Colorado. (U.S. Forest Service)

Sloshing through a wet meadow in ankle deep water, I am surrounded by thick mats of sedges, rushes and some beautiful wildflowers. This saturated meadow lies in the shadows of the 13,000-foot Sheep Mountain peak near Trout Lake, Colorado. It is a scenic spot, rich in plant diversity, but also a unique habitat in Colorado.

I am visiting this lush, high-altitude wetland with the Grand Mesa Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forests’ lead hydrologist, Gary Shellhorn who explains that this wet meadow is called a fen. Fens are peat-forming wetlands, created when wetland plants die leaving mats of dead and decaying plant matter. Fens are sustained by mineral-enriched groundwater, which is less acidic.  For this reason fens support a more diverse plant and animal community. In southern Colorado, it takes about 2,000 years to accumulate eight inches of peat at a fen. This suggests that most fens are 4,000 to 10,000 years old. Read more »

Nature High Summer Camp Connects Young People, Natural Resource Professionals

Sierra Hellstrom, Nature High Summer Camp director, explains to student about the core sample taken from an aspen tree.

Sierra Hellstrom, Nature High Summer Camp director, explains to student about the core sample taken from an aspen tree.

In a few short years, high school students at Nature High Summer Camp on the Manti-LaSal National Forest in Utah may become newly minted natural resource professionals who make a difference in the world of natural resources.

The 30 high-school students from Utah met as strangers on a Monday morning, but left Saturday as good friends who connected with nature in a way they had never before experienced.

“It’s amazing to see the changes in the students over the course of a week,” said Sierra Hellstrom, camp director who works in the U.S. Forest Service’s Intermountain Region. “They arrive shy and scared, with little knowledge of public land management. They leave enlightened and a very tight-knit group, and have a hard time saying goodbye to one another.” Read more »

Conservation Tour Showcases an Awe-Inspiring Partnership

NRCS Soil Scientist Roger Windhorn shows participants the differences in soil layers and what makes a healthy soil.

NRCS Soil Scientist Roger Windhorn shows participants the differences in soil layers and what makes a healthy soil.

A recent tour in Livingston, Ill. showcased the successes a powerful partnership has had in the Indian Creek Watershed.

The 6th Annual Conservation in Action Tour was organized by the Conservation Technology Information Center to highlight community efforts in the watershed taking place under the auspices of the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watershed Initiative.

Through the initiative, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and partners work with landowners and farmers to address nutrient loading in priority small watersheds within the Mississippi River Basin. Program participants implement voluntary conservation practices that improve water quality, restore wetlands and enhance wildlife habitat while allowing them to sustain or improve agricultural productivity. Illinois is one of the 13 states included in the initiative. Read more »

Reducing Wildfire Risk and Protecting Our Drinking Water in a Changing Climate

Cross-posted from the White House Council of Environmental Quality blog:

Americans are all too familiar with the devastation catastrophic wildland fires can wreak on the landscape. Fire takes lives, destroys homes, impacts wildlife, and devastates millions of acres of valuable forests and grasslands every year. But what is lesser known is that these fires also severely damage watersheds—the very lands that provide clean and abundant drinking water for millions of Americans every day.

To address this problem, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Interior Secretary Sally Jewell this week announced an historic agreement between the Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service and the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation to focus on proactively restoring forest lands around important watersheds and preventing costly, destructive wildfires in these areas. Read more »

Snake River Project Protects Minnesota Town from Flooding

For years, the community of Warren, Minn., has experienced regular flooding problems from the Snake River. The events have endangered residents, their property and the surrounding farmland.

Working with the city and the Middle-Snake-Tamarac Rivers Watershed District, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service has designed a flood control system for Warren with an off-river channel impoundment and a floodway that is helping to mitigate these inundations. Read more »

Illinois Urban Watershed Action Plan Will Address Water Quality Issues with NRCS Help

Flooding in September 2007 along the Fox River just south of East Dundee. (Photo courtesy National Weather Service, Chicago, Ill., Weather Forecast Office)

Flooding in September 2007 along the Fox River just south of East Dundee. (Photo courtesy National Weather Service, Chicago, Ill., Weather Forecast Office)

Over the past few decades, water quality in the Jelkes Creek–Fox River watershed in northern Illinois has diminished greatly.

That’s why USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service collaborated with the Kane-DuPage Soil & Water Conservation District and Illinois Environmental Protection Agency in 2011 on a watershed planning process with residents, environmental groups and other stakeholders. Read more »