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Earth Day Through Indigenous Eyes

Earth Day is April 22 and on this unique and special day the U.S. Forest Service is celebrating our nation’s forests and grasslands. Looking from space, the world has been described as the great blue planet. But you don’t need to travel beyond our atmosphere to see the Earth for what it is — a planet rich with vibrant life. And, sadly, it is facing one of its greatest challenges — the destructive impacts of a changing climate.

Today I offer an indigenous view of what many Native Americans refer to as Mother Earth from Black Elk who lived from 1863 to 1950. Black Elk, known amongst his people as Heȟáka Sápa, was a famous wičháša wakȟáŋ or medicine man and holy man of the Oglala Lakota and Sioux tribes.

Celebrating Earth Day and Protecting the Environment in Rural America

It’s a fact most of us learned in grammar school.  More than seventy percent of the earth’s surface is water.  On this 45th Earth Day, I can’t help but be proud to recognize the work that USDA Rural Development is doing to improve water quality and availability in Rural America.  Today, USDA is announcing over $112 million in loans and grants to rural communities across the country for better water and wastewater systems.

To recognize Earth Day, today I visited the rural community of Henderson, Maryland. The town’s water system recently failed completely, leaving the 146 residents of Henderson without water. However, Rural Development stepped in to help. USDA is providing the town with a $175,000 Emergency Community Water Assistance Grant to make critically needed repairs to the system.

The Earth Day Confessions of a Soil Health Geek

I am a soil health geek.

I didn’t seek to become a geek. But the more I learned about our living and life-giving soil, the more I became convinced this miracle under our feet holds the promise of our future.

We are all connected to the soil. Without it, life as we know it would not exist. However, for years it was believed that the best hope for our precious soil was to slow its rate of erosion—to retard its inevitable decline.

USDA Rural Development Celebrates Protection of Sebasticook River with Hartland Community and Makes $29.7 Million Landmark Earth Day Announcement

This Earth Day I visited the rural Maine community of Hartland, population 1,782, for its 1st Annual Earth Day Celebration. I was greeted by Hartland’s Interim Town Manager Christopher Littlefield, and the smiling children, residents, town and wastewater officials who welcomed me to their community for a special Earth Day announcement.

I was pleased to join partners including Maine’s Congressional Staff and the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development to announce significant USDA Rural Development funding in the amount of $29.7 million to fund seven Maine wastewater treatment facilities. Included in the announcement is the Town of Hartland which will receive $1,600,000 through USDA Rural Development for essential upgrades to the wastewater treatment facility.

It's Personal...Scenic Pennsylvania Lake Community Celebrates Protecting the Environment for Earth Day with USDA Funding

As part of USDA’s weeklong celebration of the 44th anniversary of Earth Day, I had the pleasure of visiting Wayne County, Pennsylvania to announce funding that will bring improved water and wastewater services to residents and businesses of The Hideout, one of the state’s lake communities in the Pocono Mountains.

Thanks to congressional passage of the 2014 Farm Bill, USDA Rural Development received an additional $150 million to help rural communities build or upgrade water and wastewater systems in 40 states and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. We are pairing that grant money with an additional $232 million in regular funding to support 116 projects nationwide.

Planting the Seeds of a Successful Future for our Children on Earth Day

Earth Day is an every-day celebration! It’s also about the future -- creating a safe and healthy environment for our children and grandchildren. That's just what I celebrated with the families at Mountain View Estates in Oasis, California, alongside Congressman Raul Ruiz and California State Director Glenda Humiston. Thanks to a terrific partnership between Rural Development and the local community, as well as with public and private support, these families now have homes hooked up to a new water system that provides them clean drinking water and wastewater disposal.

I am very proud of Rural Development's work in the Mountain View Estates mobile home park.  Upon learning that 181 families were being displaced from their dilapidated trailer park because of hazardous conditions, mainly sewage backups and water contamination, Rural Development looked for opportunities to help re-build that community.  Today at Mountain View Estates, every family has access to basic amenities like clean drinking water, and reliable waste removal. Even electricity is no longer is a luxury.  This project not only improved the environment, it has also improved the overall quality of life for these families.

Two Tennessee Towns Celebrate Earth Day, Reliable Water and Sewer Service

Do you like to go swimming or fishing? Rivers and lakes are cleaner thanks to USDA water/sewer investments in rural communities.

On Monday, I joined Earth Day celebrations in the rural communities of Sparta and Monterey, Tenn.  Part of being good stewards of the Earth and our natural resources is making sure that we take proper care of waste and wastewater disposal.  The stories from Sparta and Monterey show how important this is.

At the White County Middle School in Sparta, children recognized Earth Day by planting trees to help the environment.  The celebration also marked the end of a major sewage problem in town.

Interactive Online Tool Teaches Users About Climate Change

As we celebrate Earth Day and think about ways to protect our environment, we cannot ignore the dramatic effects that climate change is having on our planet.

To help the U.S. Forest Service respond to a changing climate, the Climate Change Resource Center, an online portal to credible, relevant and timely information focused on forest management responses to climate change, recently released a new education resource on basic climate change science and climate modeling.

Earth Day 2014: The Hope in Healthy Soil

For years, it was believed that a certain amount of cropland soil erosion was inevitable. But by using conservation techniques like cover crops, no-till and diverse crop rotations, an increasing number of farmers are proving that we can actually build our soils and, in some instances, increase soil organic matter by as much as 3-4 percent.

In the process, these farmers are using less energy, maintaining or increasing production and improving their bottom lines. And that’s a reason to celebrate today—Earth Day 2014.

Experience Earth Day with USDA

Earth Day is a reminder that some of our best moments can be spent in the great outdoors.

Getting outside is one of the best ways to feel re-invigorated, whether on a short hike to the Crags Trail on Pike National Forest or on a longer exploration of the 2,175-mile Appalachian Trail, which winds through 14 states and across eight national forests.

The range of outdoor activities run the gamut from hiking, camping, boating, bird watching, and experiencing wildlife to photographing nature, hunting and fishing.