Terry Dabbs gives Ann Mills, USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment, and Nancy Stoner, Environmental Protection Agency Acting Assistant Administrator for Water (right), a tour of his farm. (NRCS photo by Reginald L. Jackson)
I recently toured several farms near Stuttgart, Ark. with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s acting Assistant Administrator for Water Nancy Stoner, state officials and conservationists. We met farmers working to clean and conserve water using conservation efforts, including the Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.
The tour provided me and my colleagues from Washington, D.C. and almost a dozen states an opportunity to see firsthand how voluntary, incentive-conservation practices are helping Arkansas farmers maintain productivity while protecting wildlife habitat and improving water quality and water use efficiency.
On Terry Dabbs’ Discovery Farm, we heard how the combination of conservation practices results in better water quality. As Dabbs said, if he is contributing to poor water quality downstream and in the Gulf of Mexico hypoxic zone, he wants to know about it and fix it. Read more »
Wetland sites like this one provide outdoor recreation opportunities including bird watching and hunting. NRCS photo.
USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) helps private landowners return fields and pastures that were drained for agricultural use back to their natural state – wetlands. This is because of the value that wetlands provide: they filter and store water, they prevent floods and they provide vital homes to wildlife.
Mark Putman in Christian County, Ky. is seeing the benefits on land he enrolled into a conservation easement with NRCS. Thanks to the wetland restoration project, he and his 10-year-old cousin, A.J., have a great story to tell.
Putman owns and operates a guided and non-guided hunting operation, so restoring the land to attract more wildlife was important. He and his family also enjoy hunting deer, ducks and turkey. Read more »
Light Detection and Ranging LiDAR image shows the archaeological mounds in this restored wetland in Illinois. NRCS photo.
Sometimes to stop soil erosion, prevent nutrient and sediment runoff and improve habitat, conservation work does disturb the ground. Because of this, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service relies on its archaeologists on staff to review locations prior to implementing these conservation practices. As the cultural resources specialist for NRCS in Illinois, I’m never quite sure what will turn up in my daily work.
Field investigations by NRCS archaeologists are conducted to look for surface indications of cultural resources, such as historic farm remains, prehistoric artifacts and above-ground structures. I have had opportunities to visit about 2,000 archaeological sites and to record about 400 new sites on private working lands throughout the state. Read more »
This week, USDA and its partners launched a new conservation initiative, the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), a program that goes beyond traditional government support for conservation and allows businesses and other for-profit partners to invest in regional conservation projects. RCPP takes conservation off the farm and out of the forest and moves it into the board room.
The RCPP will competitively award funds to conservation projects designed by local partners and specifically tailored to local needs. Eligible partners include private companies, universities, non-profit organizations, local and tribal governments and others joining with agricultural and conservation organizations and producers to invest money, manpower and materials to their proposed initiatives. Read more »
The South Branch Prairie shows vibrant native grasses two years after its restoration. DeKalb County Forest Preserve District photo.
If the land floods more often than growing a crop, why not let it go back to what it wants to be – a wetland. That’s what happened on the Hoppe Heritage Farmstead in 2011. The Hoppe sisters owned cropland along the southern branch of the Kishwaukee River in DeKalb County, Ill. About half of the land would flood on a regular basis.
After several years of dealing with the floods, the sisters decided to do something about it. They sold the homestead to the DeKalb County Forest Preserve District, which preserves and restores landscapes and their plant and animal life.
Terry Hannan, the forest preserve’s superintendent, contacted USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service about a conservation easement as a possible opportunity to improve the land. Read more »
Swales, like this one, were created throughout the wetland to hold water after a rain event, which in turn helps aid in flood storage, enhances plant diversity and provides habitat for wildlife. NRCS photo.
A 53-acre conservation easement is an ideal environmental learning lab for students at Francis Hugh Wardlaw Academy in Johnston, South Carolina. The land was once pastures for cattle, but now it’s a vibrant wetland just across the street from the high school.
The contractor hired to install the restoration work, Charles Kemp, was instrumental in involving the school’s students in creating and managing the wetland. “These students are exploring what a career in agriculture or environmental science would be like, and they love being outside and escaping the confines of the classroom,” Kemp said.
USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service provided technical and financial assistance to develop the restoration plan, and install the structures and earthwork to convert the wet pasture into a functioning wetland. Read more »