NRCS Chief Jason Weller spoke at an event yesterday hosted by Ducks Unlimited and the USA Rice Federation. Chief Weller celebrated the good work of rice farmers who provide critical habitat for ducks and other migratory waterfowl. From L to R in the chairs: Betsy Ward, President and CEO of USA Rice; John Owen, Chairman of USA Rice Producers’ Group; George Dunklin, President of Ducks Unlimited; Dale Hall, CEO of Ducks Unlimited; and Dr. Mark Petrie, report author and Director of Conservation Planning at Ducks Unlimited. USDA photo by Tom Witham.
Rice is not just for people but for the birds, too. And a new report underlines the value of rice fields as habitat for migratory birds and other waterfowl.
The working rice lands report, released this week by Ducks Unlimited and the USA Rice Federation, shows that replacing rice fields with restored wetlands would cost an estimated $3.5 billion. Plus, a large amount of food available to migratory birds during winter comes from rice fields: 44 percent in California’s Central Valley and 42 percent along the Gulf of Mexico coast.
Jason Weller, chief of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, (NRCS) joined the two partners for the report’s unveiling today, noting the important relationship the agency has with both groups as well as American farmers. Read more »
Oregon landowner Dave Budeau said he dreamed of protecting wetlands. An NRCS-led conservation partnership helped Budeau restore and enhance these wetlands, providing habitat for native fish and birds. NRCS photo.
Through conservation easements, people like Dave Budeau are able to protect and restore important landscapes, like wetlands, grasslands and farmlands.
Budeau wanted to restore and protect a wetland. When the wildlife biologist searched for a new home in 2003, his passion for wildlife and nature led him to purchase what may have seemed to some as an unfriendly plot of land for wildlife. But a conservation program helped him change that.
The recently passed 2014 Farm Bill continues to provide financial and technical assistance for farmers, ranchers and forest landowners wanting to put their land into easements. But rather than separate programs, the major easement programs offered by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service have been bundled into one – the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program, or ACEP. One additional easement program, the Healthy Forests Reserve Program, remains separate. Read more »
Kelly McPherson walks the Spanish moss draped trail, where hikers view a variety of wildlife throughout the year. NRCS photo.
About 20 minutes south of downtown Gainesville, Fla. lies 1,060 acres of fresh water marsh, home to bobcat, wood duck, muskrat, bald eagle, sandhill crane and other wildlife species. This public land features six and a half miles of trails, which weave through Florida’s unique wetland landscape.
But the Levy Prairie wetland basin hasn’t always been a recreation getaway.
In the late 1960s, ranchers built levees around the area, dug canals and continually kept it drained for pastures to raise cattle. Then in 2001, one of the ranchers in the area decided to return the land to its natural state with the help of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). Read more »
This large male Eastern indigo snake is more than five feet long and sits near a gopher tortoise burrow in southern Georgia. Photo by Dirk Stevenson, the Orianne Society (Used with permission).
A recent sighting of a threatened snake in Georgia by partners of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) shows how conservation work helps wildlife.
The Orianne Society and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, two key NRCS partners, spotted an Eastern indigo snake in an area where NRCS and landowners have worked together to restore wetlands, an ecosystem where the species typically spends several months of the year.
The Eastern indigo snake is a large nonvenomous snake found in Georgia and Florida. Its historic range also included Mississippi, Alabama and South Carolina, and it’s the nation’s longest native snake. The snake was listed as threatened in 1978 because of a lack of habitat and people capturing for pets or killing them. Read more »
NRCS District Conservationist Rita Thibodeau (left) points out minnows swimming in a pond that was part of Peter Talmage’s wetland restoration project. (Photo by Jonathan Tokarz, NRCS intern)
When Peter Talmage’s career as a professor of renewable energy and energy efficiency brought him from Maine to a college in Greenfield, Mass. with his wife and son, he knew that he wanted to enhance the beauty of the land that they bought in nearby Northfield and improve it as wildlife habitat.
So when his wife, Chris, heard about a USDA program that would guarantee its protection and provide help in restoring wetlands on the property, they were sold.
Through the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Wetlands Reserve Program, Peter and Chris protected 3 ½ of 12 acres under a permanent conservation easement. They received technical and financial help reshaping wetlands that had long ago been converted to farmland. Read more »
Taylor Moore (left) and his father Murry Moore. Photo by Mark Dorsett.
Maybe it’s Murry Moore’s profession as a funeral director that inspires him to put tired land to rest, but his restoration efforts of nearly 700 acres on the banks of the Obion River in western Tennessee has ensured a peaceful home for wildlife.
In the early 1950s, Moore’s parents bought the tract, and for years afterward they cleared it for timber. Later, Murry and his brother Dean began row cropping. Year after year, the land was flooded by the Obion and eroded bit by bit, leaving a field of unproductive crops and frustrated farmers. Read more »