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2011 Wow! What a Year!

2011 Annual Report - WOW! What a Year!

Through Farm Bill programs, special initiatives and technical assistance, Natural Resources Conservation Service employees, volunteers, landowners and agricultural producers in every region of Arkansas addressed the state’s primary resource concerns of water quality, water quantity, soil erosion, soil condition, plant condition and air quality.

Arkansas Conservation Partnership

More than 230 USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) employees serve Arkansas’s 75 counties from 61 field service centers throughout the state.

These employees work with private landowners and the Arkansas Conservation Partnership to conserve and enhance the natural resources of Arkansas.

The Arkansas Conservation Partnership 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.

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.

This year’s successes included collaboration with the Arkansas Forage and Grassland Council on hosting the spring grazing tour; and working closely with the Cooperative Extension Service on a two-day grazing school, eight one-day sessions (in Izard, Stone, Carroll, Searcy, Sharp, Randolph, Conway and Benton counties) and a Controlled Grazing Field Day (in Boone County). Specialists also cooperated with the Grassroots Grazing Group on four pasture walks and their annual winter conference.

Thirty-seven grazing lands presentations were conducted, reaching approximately 1,340 people.

Plant Materials Center

The Booneville Plant Materials Centers (PMC) serves 54 million acres in Arkansas, Missouri and Oklahoma as part of a national network of PMCs that provide vegetative solutions to conservation problems.

The Booneville Center has released ‘Bumpers’ eastern gamagrass, Hampton big bluestem, and OH-370 big bluestem for use in conservation systems in the Southern Ozarks, Boston Mountains, Arkansas River Valley, Ouachita Mountains, and Southern Blackland Prairie. Ernst Conservation Seeds, Inc., is commercially producing ‘Bumpers’ eastern gamagrass for sale to the public. They will be producing Hampton big bluestem within two years.

The center is currently working on a cultivar release of Virginia Wild rye, and a drought tolerant cultivar of indiangrass. To provide information on production and management of native warm-season grasses, the staff conducted 30 evaluations on 19 center studies and 12 field plantings and made 12 oral presentations.

The center has developed partnerships with Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department, the Oklahoma Department of Transportation, U.S. Forest Service, Arkansas Game & Fish Commission, University of Arkansas at Fayetteville and at Pine Bluff, Arkansas Association of Conservation Districts, Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality, USDA Agricultural Research Service, Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service, and the Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission. The PMC provides assistance to the East Arkansas Enterprise Community and the National Black Growers Council.

PL-566 Small Watershed Program

Through the Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Act, NRCS provides assistance to local organizations in planning and implementing watershed projects for flood control, rural drinking water supply, agricultural irrigation, etc.

In fiscal year 2011, design and land rights acquisition were in process for the Departee Creek Watershed for dam construction and channel selective clearing and snagging.

One flood water retarding structure assessment related to dam safety for the PL-566 Small Watershed Rehabilitation Program was completed on the Muddy Fork of the Illinois River Watershed in Washington County.

Earth Team

Arkansas has 732 Earth Team volunteers who provided 10,640 hours of service in fiscal year 2011. Volunteers throughout the state helped at forestry clinics, field days, fairs, outreach meetings, Earth Day, Farm Safety Day Camp, Great Outdoors Day, fishing derbies, Progressive Agricultural Safety Day Camp and land judging, tractor driving, and Arkansas and International Envirothon contests.

Volunteers also assisted with the 2011 Environmental Quality Incentives Program sign-up, reviewed folders to determine if applications were eligible for current sign-up, updated cost estimates, and reviewed ranking criteria. Volunteers also used ArcGIS to transfer information from the Arkansas Forestry Commission’s Forestry Plan to the NRCS Conservation Plan in Toolkit, helped get program participant’s signatures on payment applications, assembled payment packets, and contacted participants to come in and sign appropriate paperwork. Using GPS and digital cameras, volunteers completed construction checkouts on conservation practices.

An international volunteer assisted with laying out CRP buffers, pond site determinations, laying out a pond, pond checkout, wetland determinations, and organizing office and storage space.

Soil Survey and National Resource Inventory

The Arkansas Soil Survey staff modernized soils data on 264,818 acres in FY11. 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 State Resource Assessment (SRA) of Arkansas.

The goal of the SRA was to use the 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 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 over 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.