WASHINGTON, April 22, 2010-Employees of the U.S. Department of Agriculture are marking the 40th anniversary of Earth Day by participating in a range of events and acts of service across the nation. Over 100 activities ranging from stream cleanup to tree planting events have been organized.
"Although there are still many serious challenges, we have made great strides since in improving the environment since the first Earth Day in 1970, and USDA is working to continue that progress every day," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "This Earth Day, we are focusing on USDA's efforts to improve water quality across the nation, not only through the funding we provide for water system improvement projects and the partnerships we have with producers to help implement conservation practices, but also by taking individual action to protect and restore the environment at events around the country."
At USDA headquarters on the National Mall, 17 USDA agencies and offices will hold a second annual Earth Day festival in the People's Garden. This festival is open to members of the public to educate them about the role USDA plays in improving water quality and water conservation. Some exhibit and activity highlights include: a truck farm, an on-site working water system, water quality demonstrations, green roofs, and planting activities.
Ann Mills, USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment, will join Pennsylvania Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding and the Chester County Conservation District to highlight the efforts of the farming community and partners to conserve the land and water that sustains Pennsylvania's leading agriculture industries. Pennsylvania provides more than 50 percent of the fresh water flowing into the Chesapeake Bay. Dave White, Chief of USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will be a featured speaker at Earth Day activities on the National Mall.
NRCS, the Farm Service Agency (FSA) and Ohio's conservation partners are planning a "Celebration of Conservation Success" in Ohio. Accomplishments that will be highlighted include enrollment of 100,000 acres into the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program. A tour of conservation sites including a 500 acre wetland will be conducted. NRCS is hosting an estimated 25 events around the nation that involve participation by volunteers.
Employees of the Iowa FSA in Des Moines are planting a People's Garden. FSA staff partnered with their building's landlord and a local company to plan, develop and maintain a People's Garden sock garden. The sock garden is a mesh tube filled with locally produced chemical free compost and placed on landscape fabric. A variety of fruits, vegetable and herbs are being grown in the sock. Rain water captured off of the office building is being used for watering the garden. Produce from the garden will be donated to an elementary school in Des Moines to supplement the school lunch program.
The Forest Service is planning about 50 events across the country ranging from stream and river cleanups to watershed restoration projects. For example, about 400 students are expected to participate in a Forest Service sponsored event in Craig, Alaska, located on Prince of Wales Island in the Tongass National Forest.
Rural Development is planning over 40 activities, led by Under Secretary Dallas Tonsager, who will be in Woodland Park, Colorado, to participate in an event marking the use of funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (Recovery Act) to improve drinking water quality in a subdivision. Deputy Under Secretary Victor Vasquez will represent the department in Cochiti Pueblo, New Mexico at a dedication ceremony for a new water system. Deputy Under Secretary Cheryl Cook will travel to Yerington, Nevada, where USDA has worked with the Yerington Paiute Tribe, the Indian Health Service and the Environmental Protection Agency to construct a water project that reduces the amount of arsenic and uranium in the water system.
On Friday, Deputy Agriculture Secretary Kathleen Merrigan will attend a groundbreaking ceremony in Delaware, marking the start of construction of a project, funded in part by the Recovery Act, to modernize water quality and public sanitation services in Sussex County through the upgrading of the Inland Bays Wastewater Treatment Facility.
Forty years ago, a small group citizens led by former Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson decided to take action to make their local communities cleaner and healthier, and from this spirit, Earth Day was born. President Obama has challenged Americans to take action in their homes, communities, schools, or businesses to improve the environment in honor of Earth Day. Recently, the White House unveiled WhiteHouse.gov/EarthDay , which contains links to assist Americans who wish to improve environmental quality in their communities.
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