New maps reveal the patterns of abundance of sagebrush songbirds, based on Breeding Bird Survey count data combined with sagebrush cover, landform, and climate variables. Shown here is the range-wide relative abundance of Brewer’s sparrow. Map courtesy Patrick Donnelly, IWJV.
The charismatic sage grouse is often in the spotlight as the flagship species in the sagebrush ecosystem. The smaller songbirds that live alongside the grouse don’t always attract as much attention, but they are also good indicators of how the sagebrush range is faring.
Recently, in a project funded by the Sage Grouse Initiative (SGI), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and Intermountain West Joint Venture (IMJV), scientists set out to evaluate whether investments in sage grouse conservation serve as an “umbrella” that extends benefits to other sagebrush-dependent wildlife, too. These findings are summarized in a new Science to Solutions report by SGI, a partnership led by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). Read more »
Materials from state agencies are displayed at the annual USDA Farm to School Grantee gathering.
From organizing statewide conferences, to training farmers and child nutrition professionals, to developing farm to school curricula and resources, state agencies are playing a big role in bringing the farm to school. This fact sheet describes effective strategies state agencies are using to help community food systems take root. Here’s a sampling of three ways state agencies are making an impact. Read more »
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 »