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Posts tagged: watersheds

Recognizing the Value of Cleaner Watersheds

A watershed in the Stanislaus National Forest, located in the Sierra Nevada region of California

A watershed in the Stanislaus National Forest, located in the Sierra Nevada region of California. Photo credit: US Forest Service

The mission of the Forest Service is to “sustain the health, diversity and productivity of the Nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations.” The provisioning of water resources – notably clean drinking water and flood control – is central to this. Growing demand for our water resources, spurred by population growth, and the effects of climate change further challenge the Forest Service to successfully meet the needs of present and future generations.

In the western United States – where water flowing from national forests makes up nearly two-thirds of public and commercial water supplies – water scarcity and wildfire threats have galvanized diverse stakeholders to invest in healthy headwaters. Local communities, public utility companies, businesses, non-governmental organizations and state and local agencies are investing in watershed restoration to avoid catastrophic economic losses. Read more »

Working with Beavers to Restore Watersheds

Kent Woodruff, U.S. Forest Service biologist, introducing a local resident named David to a soon-to-be-new-resident beaver

Kent Woodruff, U.S. Forest Service biologist, introduces a local resident named David to a soon-to-be-new-resident beaver as part of one of the project’s education programs. Photo credit: U.S. Forest Service

The Methow Beaver Project is a bit uncommon as far as forest health restoration projects go, because it relies on one of nature’s greatest engineers – the beaver.

Beavers build dams on rivers and streams, and build homes (“lodges”) in the resulting bodies of still, deep water to protect against predators. Beavers play an important ecological role, because the reservoirs of water that beaver dams create also increase riparian habitat, reduce stream temperatures, restore stream complexity, capture sediment, and store millions of gallons of water underground in wetland ‘sponges’ that surround beaver colonies. This benefits the many fish, birds, amphibians, plants and people that make up the entire ecosystem. Read more »

The Mississippi River: Mending the Mighty from North to the Gulf

Brian Parkinson working with NRCS District Conservationist Joe Gates to make conservation improvements to his land

Brian Parkinson grows cereal rye and other varieties of cover crops near Milan, Ill. Parkinson works with NRCS District Conservationist Joe Gates to make conservation improvements to his land. Photo courtesy of NRCS.

The mighty Mississippi – it’s a river with a history of romance and enchantment. Native Americans depended on the Mississippi River for food and water, and world explorers came in search of its riches.

Over time, farmsteads dotted the land, and small towns grew to large cities. Today, we see the fruits of our labor as industry, commerce and agriculture continue to thrive in the basin. But those successes come with environmental challenges. Many of the basin’s waterways suffer from poor water quality. Read more »

Supporting Local Rural Economies while Improving Forest Health

A California Conservation Corps crew hard at work on the Stanislaus National Forest

A California Conservation Corps crew hard at work on the Stanislaus National Forest. Photo credit: US Forest Service.

This blog post was written with support from Amie Anderton (Intermountain Region), Lindsay Buchanan (Washington Office), and Teresa McClung (Pacific Southwest Region).

Calaveras County, nestled in the Gold Country and High Sierra regions of California, has a long and storied past.

It is the setting for Mark Twain’s famous short story, “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County,” published in 1865. However, this rural county and the neighboring Amador County have faced some more recent tough times. Read more »

With USDA Support, Aging Utah Dams to be Revitalized

Utah State Conservationist Dave Brown standing beside NRCS Assistant Chief Kirk Hanlin

Utah State Conservationist Dave Brown, standing beside NRCS Assistant Chief Kirk Hanlin, discusses the impact of watershed investments in Utah. (NRCS photo)

In the 1950s and 60s USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), working with state, local governments and partners, designed and built many dams across the United States for flood and sediment control and water storage. Many of these dams are coming to the end of their design life.

In early April, I traveled up the American Fork Canyon in Utah to Tibble Fork Dam to announce Utah would be receiving nearly $30 million dollars to rehabilitate aging dams. Read more »

The Joy and Value of a Meadow

Forest Hydrologist Tracy Weddel

Forest Hydrologist Tracy Weddel helps restore meadow landscape burned by the Rim Fire. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Forest Service)

Watching the golden glow of the sun alight upon meadow grasses stirs my imagination.  My mind conjures up misty visions of the famous naturalist, John Muir, traipsing through the Sierras, admiring Corn Lilies and sedges. A red-tailed hawk swoops into this vision and silently plucks a pocket gopher with outstretched talons. Coursing through this living landscape, creating a back drop for this scene, is the magical, musical sound of water. 

Aside from their beauty, meadows provide a variety of important ecological functions. A multitude of species depend upon riparian areas and meadows to survive. Black bears turn over meadow logs looking for ants. Deer nibble the grasses and brush. Coyote music echoes across the flatlands and bounces between walls of lava stone. Walk close to the waterway of a meadow and you may hear the plop of a basking frog as it jumps the bank to enter the stream of life. Read more »