Three generations of farmers at sundown on a South Dakota farm.
The White House recently recognized 12 Champions of Change for their leadership in sustainable and climate-smart agriculture. This week we will meet them through their USDA Regional Climate Hub, today featuring the Northern Plains’ Keith Berns, Larry Cundall and Martin Kleinschmit.
Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Nebraska comprise the Northern Plains Region. The region accounts for a quarter of irrigated lands in the U.S. and more than a third of the pasture/rangelands. The Northern Plains has an extensive precipitation and temperature gradient moving from east to west, which provides a diverse array of environmental conditions for agriculture throughout the region.
The region faces longer and warmer growing seasons, earlier arrival of spring, and altered distribution of seasonal precipitation. These changes can affect agriculture production in a number of ways such as the timing of snowmelt for irrigation and changes in pest and weed pressure. Additionally, extreme weather events such as drought are occurring at greater frequency, duration, and intensity. The USDA Northern Plains Regional Climate Hub (NPRCH) produced a vulnerability assessment of key agriculture enterprises in the six-state area that highlights a number of adaption and mitigation strategies available to producers. Read more »
Brewer’s sparrow and green-tailed towhee numbers climbed significantly where sagebrush habitat was restored. Gray flycatcher, a songbird that prefers a mix of conifers and sagebrush, saw declines when sagebrush habitat was restored. (Click to enlarge)
The Natural Resources Conservation Service works with ranchers and partners to improve habitat for sage grouse with funding through the Sage Grouse Initiative. Focusing on privately-owned lands, the initiative covers the 11 Western state range of the bird. About 40 percent of the sage grouse dwell on private lands. David Naugle is a wildlife professor at the University of Montana and the science advisor for SGI, an NRCS-led partnership. —Tim Griffiths, NRCS
By David Naugle, Science Advisor, Sage Grouse Initiative
Restoring sagebrush ecosystems not only benefits ranching and sage grouse but other wildlife, too. New data show that populations of Brewer’s sparrow and green-tailed towhee, two sagebrush-dependent songbirds, climbed significantly in places where invading conifer trees were removed.
Three years after removing trees, Brewer’s sparrow numbers increased by 55 percent and green-tailed towhee numbers by 81 percent relative to areas not restored, according to a new report released by the Sage Grouse Initiative (SGI). These two songbirds, both identified as species of conservation concern by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), serve as early indicators of the effectiveness of restoration work. Read more »
In late 2011, the President announced a White House Rural Council initiative lead by the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to invest in rural health and link rural doctors and hospitals to financing for health IT. The initiative was designed to address the need for financing to support the adoption of health IT systems in rural communities. Financing has been cited as one of the top challenges for rural doctors and hospitals serving remote and poor communities.
Between 2012 and 2014, the HHS and USDA led initiative generated approximately $1 Billion in rural health care financing across 13 states. These investments, funded by USDA, included grants and loans to help rural clinics and hospitals transition from paper to electronic health records (EHRs), encourage exchange of health information with health care providers and patients, and offer telehealth services. Read more »
Moving cattle on the Northern Plains. Photo Credit: Matt Mortenson
The Northern Plains Regional Climate Hub—encompassing Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Nebraska, and Colorado— has a high diversity of land use types including the largest remaining tracts of native rangeland in North America. Substantial areas of both dryland and irrigated cropland and pasture, mosaics of cropland and grassland, and forested lands can be found across the region. With the publication of the Northern Plains Regional Vulnerability Assessment, the Northern Plains Hub is providing stakeholders with an introduction to the region, regional sensitivities and adaptation strategies for working lands, a greenhouse gas emissions profile with mitigation opportunities, and an overview of how partner USDA agencies are being affected by a changing climate. This vulnerability assessment is an important first step in establishing a baseline “snapshot” of current climate vulnerabilities, and provides region-specific adaptation and mitigation strategies to increase the resilience of working lands in the region. Read more »
Carita Chan was excited to get to ride in a Sno-Cat for the first time. U.S. Forest Service photo.
What lengths would you go to for the pursuit of science?
That’s a question I asked myself when I had the opportunity to participate in data collection at the Glacier Lakes Ecosystem Experiments Site with John Frank and John Korfmacher, Electronics Engineer and Physical Scientist respectively, at the Forest Service’s Rocky Mountain Research Station.
The Glacier Lakes Ecosystem Experiments Site, or GLEES, is located in the Snowy Range of the Medicine Bow Mountains, within the Medicine Bow National Forest in Wyoming. The remote site’s 600 hectares (1,480 acres) are composed of a watershed located in mountainous terrain at 3,200 to 3,500 m (10,500 to 11,500 ft.) elevation. Read more »
Sheep are just part of a dynamic Nevada livestock sector. Be sure to check back next week for another state highlight from the 2012 Census of Agriculture.
The Census of Agriculture is the most complete account of U.S. farms and ranches and the people who operate them. Every Thursday USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service will highlight new Census data and the power of the information to shape the future of American agriculture.
When people think of Nevada, most imagine Las Vegas with its casinos and other entertainment venues, or a vast expanse of dry land. Few imagine a dynamic agricultural sector fueled by farming and ranching. In reality, however, Nevada had one of the fastest growing agriculture sectors in the nation according to the 2012 Census of Agriculture.
In 2012, Nevada’s producers sold more than $764 million worth of agricultural products, a whopping 49 percent increase since the 2007 Census. All of these products were grown and raised on Nevada’s 4,137 farms and ranches. Since 2007, the number of our farms has grown 32 percent. Nevada also boasts some of the largest agricultural operations in the nation. According to the 2012 Census, an average size of a Nevada farm or ranch was 1,429 acres. Only three states, Wyoming, Montana, and New Mexico average larger farm sizes than Nevada. Read more »