Bridalveil Falls, Yosemite National Park, California (USDA-NRCS photo by Ron Nichols).
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.
An award-winning watershed assessment tool, the Automated Geospatial Watershed Assessment (AGWA), was deployed to assess potential Rim Fire threats in Yosemite National Park in California. The park experienced a devastating fire that began on August 17, 2013, and took several months to contain. The fire burned more than 400 square miles in and around the park, cost $125.8 million to date, and is considered one of the largest wildfires in California’s history.
BAER (Burned Area Emergency Response) is a multi-agency group that includes USDA’s Forest Service and others, and is responsible for identifying potential threats such as downstream flooding and developing plans to rehabilitate and restore burned areas. BAER teams use AGWA to target immediate efforts to prevent threats to people, wildlife and the land. Using AGWA combined with the burn severity map produced by BAER teams, experts can rapidly pull together information on pre- and post-fire conditions. For example, knowing where to apply mulch after a fire can reduce runoff and erosion and can help minimize downstream risks from fire induced land cover and soil changes. Read more »
Natural resource conservation is paramount to the ongoing strength of our nation. Healthy soil contributes to agricultural productivity. Healthy forests clean our water and air. Vibrant waterways are critical for our health, for transportation and for trade. Investments into conservation spur job growth and community development, particularly in rural areas.
This is an uncertain time for USDA conservation activities. Congress has not yet passed a comprehensive Food, Farm and Jobs Bill that would continue to invest in conservation efforts, while providing rural America with certainty regarding many other important programs.
As we continue urging Congress to provide a new Food, Farm and Jobs Bill, USDA this week took several new steps to strengthen conservation across the country. Read more »
U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Bioenergy Memorandum of Understanding is signed by wood energy partners (left - right) Biomass Thermal Energy Council, Executive Director Joseph Seymour; Alliance for Green Heat, President John Ackerly; USDA Deputy Agriculture Secretary Krysta Harden; Pellet Fuels Institute Executive, Director Jennifer Hedrick; Biomass Power Association, President and CEO Bob Cleaves, at the USDA Headquarters in Washington, D.C. on September 11, 2013. USDA Photo by Lance Cheung.
Earlier this week, USDA, U.S. Forest Service and partners took a major step to improve forest management, create rural jobs, prevent wildfires, and expand promising renewable energy opportunities.
Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden joined leaders from the Alliance for Green Heat, the Biomass Power Association, the Biomass Thermal Energy Council, and the Pellet Fuels Institute here in Washington for the announcement of a new partnership agreement. Acting as master of ceremonies for the signing event was Acting USDA Rural Development Under Secretary Doug O’Brien. Through the Rural Energy for America program and other programs, Rural Development has been a leader in promoting deployment of wood-to-energy projects. Read more »
A blue heron on the Choptank River in Maryland, one of the benchmark watersheds that USDA researchers are evaluating as part of the Conservation Effects Assessment Project.
USDA researchers are working together to protect and conserve our beautiful nation and all of its majestic natural resources for generations to come. As part of USDA’s Conservation Effects Assessment Project (CEAP), more than 60 USDA-Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists are working together to gain a better understanding of the role that agricultural conservation programs and practices play in achieving our nation’s environmental objectives of clean air and water, healthy soils and flourishing natural habitats.
USDA began the CEAP program in 2003 to study the environmental benefits of conservation practices implemented through 2002 Farm Bill programs. As part of CEAP, ARS scientists are evaluating 14 watersheds across 12 ARS locations to provide the additional scientific basis for the CEAP National Assessment being led by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service. Those watersheds were selected in part to address specific concerns, like manure management on animal feeding operations, water use on irrigated cropland, drainage water management, wildlife habitat and riparian restoration. These watershed studies also should help develop performance measures for estimating soil, water and air quality, and perhaps other potential benefits for specific conservation practices. Read more »
Low Elevation Spray Application and Low Energy Precision Application systems are being used on the Gonzales’ alfalfa field in Lovington, NM. This month, USDA celebrates our partnerships to encourage conservation practices on both public and private lands.
America’s farmers, ranchers and forest owners have a great tradition of stewardship of our natural resources and environment. The U.S. Forest Service, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and other USDA agencies work in partnership with farmers, ranchers, forest owners, conservation groups, sportsmen, local communities, businesses and many others to encourage the conservation of both our public and private lands. This month – National Conservation Month – the Forest Service and NRCS are making several announcements that highlight the commitment of USDA and its partners to natural resource stewardship on public and private lands.
Later today, Secretary Tom Vilsack will announce the latest round of recipients for the NRCS Conservation Innovation Grants program (CIG). These grants stimulate the development and adoption of innovative conservation approaches that improve the productivity of farms, ranches and forests while enhancing the environment. For example, last year the University of Delaware used a CIG grant from NRCS to assist poultry producers in improving their operations and their environmental performance, and helping them comply with federal and state environmental quality requirements. Read more »
The Chesapeake Bay Watershed extends across 64,000 square miles. (Graphic courtesy of Chesapeake Bay Program)
Urban and community forests, agroforestry, fish and wildlife habitat, mining areas and contaminated lands are the targets of a restoration strategy aimed to help the Chesapeake Bay, the largest estuary in the U.S.
The final Chesapeake Restoration Strategy, a multi-agency effort released this month by the Forest Service, relies heavily on collaboration among partners in federal, state and local governments, watershed and community organizations and private partners. Read more »