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2012 Making an Impact

2012 Annual Report - Making an Impact in Arkansas and Beyond

Arkansas Conservation Partnership

More than 230 NRCS employees serve Arkansas’s 75 counties from 61 USDA field service centers.  These employees work with private landowners and the Arkansas Conservation Partnership (ACP) to conserve and enhance the natural resources of Arkansas.  The ACP is a unique force, combining the strengths of federal, state and local organizations along with educational institutions to help preserve and protect the Natural State. Formed in 1992, the partnership consists of the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Arkansas Natural Resources Commission, Arkansas Association of Conservation Districts, Arkansas Association of Conservation District Employees, Arkansas Resource Conservation and Development Councils Inc., University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service, University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff and the Arkansas Forestry Commission. The various agencies diverse missions complement each other.

Earth Team

Arkansas had 817 Earth Team volunteers who provided 16,597 hours of service in fiscal year 2012 -- with volunteers in each of the 61 NRCS service centers.   Volunteers assisted with rainfall measurements, engineering work, wetland delineations, WRP restoration projects, field work and inventorying resources, processing MRBI applications, reviewing participants eligibility and application estimators and completing quality assurance checks on applications, surveying irrigation reservoirs, getting program participant’s signatures on payment applications, assembling payment packets, contacting participants to come in and sign appropriate paperwork and used GPS and digital cameras to help complete construction checkouts on conservation practices.

Grazing Lands

Technical assistance for owners and managers of grasslands in Arkansas is an important component of the NRCS program. The Grazing Lands Conservation Initiative (GLCI) was founded to provide high quality technical assistance on privately owned grazing lands on a voluntary basis and to increase the awareness of the importance of grazing land resources.   The drought in Arkansas resulted in many challenges for producers with grazing lands. Collaborative efforts from NRCS, Cooperative Extension Service, and other conservation partners resulted in a successful year for the GLCI in Arkansas. Twenty-nine grazing land presentations across the state attracted approximately 1,800 participants. Grazing workshops were hosted in Benton, Boone, Cleburne, Conway, Crawford, Pulaski, Polk, Fulton, Logan, Marion, Randolph, Sharp, and Van Buren counties. Other grazing lands related training was provided to approximately 1,025 individuals including NRCS employees, landowners and cooperating agencies. Outreach efforts targeting for grazing land owners were also provided through magazine articles and radio interviews.

Plant Materials Center

The Booneville Plant Materials Center (BPMC) has a service area of 53 million acres in western Arkansas, eastern Oklahoma, and southwestern Missouri. The BPMC develops vegetative recommendations for customers in the Ozark Highlands, Boston Mountains, Arkansas River Valley and Ridges, Ouachita Mountains, and the Western Coastal Plains major land resource areas (MLRAs).  This year, the BPMC published information about several studies and hosted numerous workshops and training courses for landowners and NRCS staff. Workshops and training courses raised awareness about a variety of issues including the decline of pollinator habitat and improving overall soil health on the farm.

BPMC staff published a final report of a three year study in cooperation with the Oklahoma Department of Transportation (ODOT): Vegetative Rehabilitation of Highway Cut Slopes in Eastern Oklahoma. The study provides recommendations to ODOT for establishing native warm season grasses on critical areas around highway cut slopes found throughout the state. The report is available on the BPMC’s website at http://plant-materials.nrcs.usda.gov/arpmc/ and is applicable for establishing vegetation on a wide variety of shallow sites with steep slopes.

BPMC staff shared the results of a four-year switchgrass study by presenting a poster at the Eastern Native Grass Symposium in Charlottesville, Va., in October. This study developed fertilizer, irrigation, and harvest treatment combinations to maximize switchgrass production for the biofuel feedstock industry. A new study examining the effects of the different treatment combinations on overall soil quality parameters such as particulate organic matter, bulk density, and root density has also been initiated this year to provide more information to landowners interested in the biofuel feedstock industry.

Soil Surveys and Resource Inventory

The Arkansas Soil Survey staff modernized soils data on 448,113 acres in FY12. Interactive soil surveys are available online at http://websoilsurvey.nrcs.usda.gov for all counties in Arkansas.  Arkansas NRCS and the Center for Advanced Spatial Technologies (CAST) at the University of Arkansas began a phase two of the 2011 State Resource Assessment (SRA) of Arkansas.

The goal of the SRA phase two was to refine it using new and best available statewide datasets in conjunction with input from resource experts from NRCS and conservation partners to quantify the extent and distribution of 29 NRCS recognized natural resource concerns.  Based on the data, maps were created showing the resource concern areas. These maps represent the distribution of potential at-risk areas for each natural resource concern. The results were also spatially correlated to representative HUC12 values. This process enables 12-digit hydrologic units to be ranked for an individual resource concern based on area of coverage and level of concern within the HUC12.

The individual input layer maps for all resource concern models can be viewed online at http://raar.cast.uark.edu. The compilation of this statewide inventory will be used to help guide NRCS Arkansas efforts the next five years.  The soil survey staff also completed an inventory of soil carbon stocks in selected soils of the state. The results of this study will assist NRCS in developing and encouraging conservation practices that will increase soil organic matter. Information gained will be used to adjust conservation programs and evaluate the effects of conservation practices encouraged by NRCS and soil and water conservation districts.