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forest landowners

Seven Remarkable Creatures Benefiting from Habitat Enhancements on Working Lands

Today is National Endangered Species Day, and USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service is spotlighting how farmers, ranchers and forest landowners make voluntary improvements to their land, helping save habitats for at-risk species.

Owners and managers of working lands coordinate with NRCS through the agency’s Working Lands for Wildlife partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to create and enhance wildlife habitat for many different species, including those facing population troubles. This work helps reverse population declines of seven wildlife species targeted in the partnership as well as provides benefits to other wildlife.

Learn more about the seven species in Working Lands for Wildlife:

The Modern Farmer and USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service

For generations, children have been singing about the farmer, his wife and kids, and even the mouse and the cheese. But today, a modern farmer is more likely to be using the mouse on his computer (or more realistically, a smartphone or tablet) than dancing around a small wooded valley with his family and farm animals.

The website of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service,, has been evolving to keep pace with the needs of today’s farmer. Our mission is to provide American farmers, ranchers and other visitors with the tools and resources they are looking for on a site that is easy to use and navigate.

World Water Day: Reflecting on the Importance of Water to the World

I care deeply about conserving our land, soil and water and know that farmers are incredible stewards of the land. Prior to coming to USDA, I served as CEO of the National Association of Conservation Districts.  I know firsthand that improving water conservation requires innovative technologies and partnerships.

In honor of World Water Day, I spoke to the U.S. Water Partnership on the critical role conservation plays in agriculture. According to the 2012 National Intelligence Community Assessment, about 70 percent of the global fresh water supply is devoted to agriculture. USDA and its partners play an important role in ensuring that producers have the water resources necessary to produce the food, fuel and fiber needed by Americans and our trading partners around the world. It’s an important part of our mission.

Conservation Easement Enables Landowners to Restore Wetland, Help Protect Fish

Through conservation easements, people like Dave Budeau are able to protect and restore important landscapes, like wetlands, grasslands and farmlands.

Budeau wanted to restore and protect a wetland. When the wildlife biologist searched for a new home in 2003, his passion for wildlife and nature led him to purchase what may have seemed to some as an unfriendly plot of land for wildlife. But a conservation program helped him change that.

The recently passed 2014 Farm Bill continues to provide financial and technical assistance for farmers, ranchers and forest landowners wanting to put their land into easements. But rather than separate programs, the major easement programs offered by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service have been bundled into one – the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program, or ACEP. One additional easement program, the Healthy Forests Reserve Program, remains separate.

Wetland Provides Sanctuary for People, Wildlife

About 20 minutes south of downtown Gainesville, Fla. lies 1,060 acres of fresh water marsh, home to bobcat, wood duck, muskrat, bald eagle, sandhill crane and other wildlife species. This public land features six and a half miles of trails, which weave through Florida’s unique wetland landscape.

But the Levy Prairie wetland basin hasn’t always been a recreation getaway.

In the late 1960s, ranchers built levees around the area, dug canals and continually kept it drained for pastures to raise cattle. Then in 2001, one of the ranchers in the area decided to return the land to its natural state with the help of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).

Secretary's Column: New Farm Bill and 2015 Budget Expand Opportunity in Rural America

This week, President Obama released USDA’s fiscal year 2015 budget proposal, which supports our ongoing work to create jobs and opportunity in rural America.

The budget builds on the new opportunities available to us through the recently-passed 2014 Farm Bill to achieve reform and results for the American taxpayer; foster opportunity for the men and women living, working and raising families in rural America; and support innovation through strategic, future-focused investments.

My team at USDA has been hard at work identifying everything that will be required—regulations, guidance and other activities—to develop a plan to implement the new Farm Bill.

Farm Bill Program Continues to Nurture Healthy Forest, Help Wildlife

With a little help from USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, (NRCS) Variano “Chino” Suarez was able to use prescribed burning and other conservation efforts to greatly improve his forested land in Mississippi.

Through NRCS conservation programs, Suarez and others are able to make improvements on private lands.

The recently passed 2014 Farm Bill continues to provide financial and technical assistance for farmers, ranchers and forest managers wanting to put conservation to work on their land through the NRCS’ Environmental Quality Incentives Program.

USDA Publications Shine on Government Bookstore Bestseller List

The U.S. Government Bookstore, the place where you can buy the 2014 Counterterrorism Calendar for $20 or a loose-leaf copy of the Export Administration Regulation 2013 edition for $199, released its list of best-selling publications for 2013 that includes several items published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“Why Would Anyone Cut A Tree Down?” is written by Roberta Burzynski, who works in the U.S. Forest Service’s Northeastern Area State and Private Forestry unit. The book shows children the life cycle of trees and how trees are a renewable resource. The 41-page book with 28 full-color illustrations can be used by parents and teachers along with online activities and lessons. Colorfully illustrated by Juliette Watts, the $10 book is ideal for parents, teachers and children. Burzynski also wrote the popular “Woodsy Owl’s ABCs” that is meant to be read by an adult to children.

Conservation Programs Help Woman Rancher Realize a Dream

When Ann Whitehead acquired 100 acres of agricultural land near Wellsville, Mo., it gave her the opportunity to fulfill her dream of raising cattle. Since then she has been taking advantage of technical and financial assistance from USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to ensure that the land will be productive for future generations of people who might share her dream.

“I grew up on a farm, but I was more in charge of the chickens,” Whitehead said. “Raising cattle is something I always wanted to do, so I told my kids ‘I’m not getting any younger, and I’m going to do it.’”

Whitehead took advantage of the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) that provides funding for beginning farmers, ranchers and forest landowners associated with planning and implementing conservation measures.

Soldier-Turned-Farmer Uses Rotational Grazing to Make His Minnesota Ranch Successful & Sustainable

Pete Berscheit has wanted to farm since he was five. But with three brothers interested in farming, he didn’t think the fourth-generation family farm in Todd County, Minn. would be large enough to support everyone.

So instead of farming, Berscheit joined the Army at 17, where he served for 20 years. Toward the end of his Army career, repeated deployments were starting to take a toll on his young family, and in 2008, he and his wife, Rosemary, decided to return to their roots.

Berscheit and his family bought a place to support a small herd of 40 Black Angus cow and calf pairs, fulfilling his nearly lifelong dream of becoming a farmer. The farm is about three miles from where he grew up in central Minnesota. The farm was a good location and was a good fit for raising a family and starting his ranch.