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Jason Weller

Climate Smart Conservation Partnership Serves Two Scoops of On-Farm Solutions

Eating a pint of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream may make you feel guilty about your waistline, but thanks to a new partnership between the ice cream company and USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), you may be able to feel less guilty about contributing to climate change. The partnership is designed to help Ben & Jerry’s milk suppliers—generally small dairies—understand their greenhouse gas footprint and consider voluntary conservation approaches to reduce that footprint.

NRCS and Ben & Jerry’s will help dairies implement conservation practices that meet Ben & Jerry’s objective of “Happy Cows, Happy Planet, & Happy Farmers.” Through its Caring Dairy sustainability program, Ben & Jerry’s will use USDA’s suite of greenhouse gas estimation tools, COMET-FarmTM and COMET-PlannerTM, to quantify on-farm GHG emissions and reductions. The COMET tools—COMET stands for CarbOn Management & Emissions Tool – are a product of a long-standing partnership between NRCS and Colorado State University.

Environmental Markets Help Improve Water Quality

Environmental trading markets are springing up across the nation with goals of facilitating the buying and selling of ecosystem services and helping more private landowners get conservation on the ground.

USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack and EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy joined Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe in December 2014 to announce the state’s first trade under its nutrient trading program for stormwater.

Pennsylvania Landowners Helping Indiana Bat through 'Spooky' Declines

When most people think of bats, images of dark caves, vampires and Halloween come to mind. But actually, bats get a bad rap, and we often don’t know how important they are for controlling insects, pollinating plants, dispersing seeds and improving biodiversity.

Many of our nation’s bats are facing population declines to near-extinction levels, primarily because of disease and loss of habitat. One of those species is the Indiana bat, an endangered species that has experienced rapid declines since the 1960s.

Roundtable Isn't Your Typical CIG Project

This isn’t your typical Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG) project. There’s no university collecting and analyzing data, or ground-breaking technology being evaluated here.

Nope. This one is a good, old-fashioned meeting.

Why would a meeting be such an important CIG project? Because strategic stakeholders from all over the world come together to deliberate on obstacles, challenges, and generate solutions to increase the amount of private capital, institutional investments, and other sources of non-Federal funding dedicated to natural resource conservation on both public and private lands.

Unique Conservation Partnership Helps Create Win-Win Situation

By keeping their grasslands intact, two Colorado ranches are reducing greenhouse gas emissions and protecting vital wildlife habitat, all while earning additional revenue.

It may seem too good to be true, but it is thanks to a unique partnership spearheaded by the Climate Action Reserve, one of North America’s leading carbon offset project registries.

With the help of a Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG) from USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the Climate Action Reserve listed Raven’s Nest and Heartland Ranch, both owned by the Southern Plains Land Trust (SPLT), as the first two grassland offset projects developed and executed under a new Grassland Project Protocol.

Growing Farmers

Fresh. Local. Honest. This motto underscores the guiding philosophy of the Minnesota Food Association (MFA). To achieve its goals of promoting healthy food and regenerative agriculture, the MFA offers workshops for farmers and helps immigrants learn how to farm sustainably in local conditions.

The MFA manages Big River Farms, a 150-acre certified-organic teaching farm. Farmers can enroll in a three-year training program, during which they’re taught about local soils and growing conditions, trained in organic certification and farming methods, and provided a large plot of land to manage. Many of the farmers are immigrants and refugees.

“I thought America was all cities and buildings. I didn’t picture the farmland,” said Suraj Budathoki, a Bhutanese refugee from Nepal. He is a recent graduate of Big River Farms.

With the Right Management, Pennsylvania Landowners Bringing Birds to Forest

Natalie Love wakes up each morning to the sounds of songbirds. “What a good way to start your day,” said Love, who lives in the Appalachian Mountains in central Pennsylvania.

Natalie and her husband Donald are working to improve the healthy, structurally diverse forests that provide many benefits for wildlife. By doing so, they’ve also improved their access to their forests, fought off undesired invasive plants and improved the aesthetics of their forest land.

“Sustainable forestry is benefitting our personal lives as well as wildlife,” she said. “We want to build an inviting place for the golden-winged warbler.”

A River Runs Through It - An Oregon National Forest at the Heart of a Movement

Oregon’s McKenzie River has a lot to boast about. One of the cleanest and coldest rivers in the country, it’s the most important tributary for wild spring Chinook salmon and Bull trout production in the entire Willamette River Basin. It’s part of more than 100 miles of streams that the Willamette National Forest and many partners have restored over the last 10 years.

“What happens around these headwaters has important implications downstream,” said Kate Meyer, a fisheries biologist on the Willamette National Forest. “Land managed by the Forest Service makes up 66 percent of the McKenzie River Sub-basin and 24 percent of the Willamette River Basin, and it’s the source of 74 percent and 31 percent of the water feeding each river respectively.”

USDA Builds Conservation Partnerships to Restore Forests, Clean Water and Reduce Wildfire Risk

Protecting our National Forests and surrounding lands against a myriad of threats is not an easy feat. That’s why joining forces with the right ally is a powerful strategy.

In 2014, U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell and Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) Chief Jason Weller formed a strategic alliance to establish the Joint Chiefs’ Landscape Restoration Partnership.

“We face a multitude of challenges in combating forest threats and the Forest Service can’t prevail alone,” said Tidwell. “The Joint Chiefs’ partnership provides a better way for us to work with local communities to reduce the risk of wildfires, ensure dependable local drinking water and improve wildlife habitat across the country.”

NRCS Partners with Farmers, Ranchers to Aid Monarch Butterflies

No matter where you grew up, you are likely familiar with monarch butterflies. You may have childhood memories from science class when you watched those peculiar green caterpillars transform into beautiful butterflies. Depending on where you live, you may have seen masses of their orange-and-black wings fluttering in the sky while the butterflies were on their annual cross-country migratory journey.

Today, the iconic monarch butterfly is under pressure. Habitat loss has led to a steady decrease in their numbers.