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Trail to Recovery: New Tool to Help Evaluate New England Cottontail Habitat

Posted by Melissa Martin on May 25, 2016 at 11:00 AM
The New England cottontail sits in the grass.

The New England cottontail is the region's only native rabbit. Photo courtesy of U.S.Fish and Wildlife Service.

When we at the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and our partners work with landowners to restore habitat on working lands, we know it’s good for wildlife but we aren’t always sure just how good. But now we have a way to assess our success thanks to a new tool — the Habitat Suitability Index (HSI), which makes it possible for us to evaluate the quality of habitat created for the rare New England cottontail rabbit. 

What happened to the habitat?
Since the 1960s, the cottontail’s range has decreased by more than 80 percent. The decline is due to a number of factors, including development, aging forests, and a lack of fire and other disturbances. This is why NRCS, the New England Cottontail Technical Group and other conservation partners are restoring cottontail habitat by modifying forests, planting shrubs and removing invasive plants. Read more >>

Tags: New Hampshire, New England cottontail, Working Lands for Wildlife

categories Landscape Initiatives


Protecting and Restoring Wetlands in Vermont’s Otter Creek Watershed

Posted by Amy Overstreet, Vermont Public Affairs Officer on May 24, 2016 at 09:09 AM
Lyn and Jim Des Marais of Brandon, Vermont stand next to a sign on their 1,250 acre farm in the Otter Creek Watershed.

Lyn and Jim Des Marais of Brandon, Vermont are committed to protecting the wetlands on their 1,250 acre farm in the Otter Creek Watershed.

The Des Marais’ are living their dream in Brandon, Vermont. The view from their kitchen window looks out on a nearly 500-acre wetland where the Otter Creek meanders through pastures and grasslands and a diversity of wildlife thrives. That place is now Jim and Lyn Des Marais 1,250 farm.

“We feel incredibly fortunate to own this beautiful and historic property, and our goal is to preserve and protect it,” explains Jim.

And they are doing just that. Read more >>

Tags: Vermont, wetlands

categories Farmer & Rancher Stories, Conservation Programs


Innovative Project Curbs Greenhouse Gas Emissions From Mid-South Rice Fields

Posted by Ciji Taylor, Public Affairs Specialist on May 19, 2016 at 02:26 PM
Monitoring equipment in the rice fields measure gases.

Monitoring equipment in the rice fields measure gases.

Environmental markets—the buying and selling of ecosystem services like carbon credits, water quality benefits and wildlife habitat—is an emerging market opportunity that has seen success in California, Michigan and the prairie pothole region of North Dakota.

The process for generating carbon credits from water and nitrogen management on rice fields provides rice growers with small incentives to voluntarily make management changes that reduce methane and nitrous oxide; both are potent greenhouse gases.  

Thanks to a new Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG) project, rice growers in the Mid-south region will have new opportunities to implement conservation practices that reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions while marketing their climate-smart rice under a unique label.   Read more >>

Tags: Arkansas, Mississippi, Louisiana, greenhouse gas

categories Science & Technology


Create Quail Habitat on Your Land

Posted by Renee Bodine on May 19, 2016 at 11:37 AM
A northern bobwhite quail sits in a tree.

The northern bobwhite quail population has declined in America.

Bill Barnhill recalls the days when a robust quail population brought hunters to Florida’s panhandle for national field trials. Since then, the species has declined 85 percent in the United States, according to some estimates. So when he hosted a quail habitat workshop recently, it was no surprise when 100 people crowded into his hunting lodge eight miles northwest of Crestview, Florida to learn how to bring back the northern bobwhite quail. Here is just some of what they learned.

Why are quail in decline? A loss of habitat is the primary reason. In the 1940s, coveys thrived on small farms along the edges of fields, hedgerows, fencerows and windbreaks. But small fields gave way to industrial farms with large expansive fields and development consumed open native grasslands. After decades of fire suppression, undergrowth was choking out quail forage, nesting cover and protection.  Read more >>

Tags: Florida, Longleaf Pine Initiative, Working Lands for Wildlife

categories Landscape Initiatives, Plants & Animals


Connecticut Engineer Recognized as USDA Unsung Hero

Posted by Carolyn Miller, Visual Information Specialist on May 13, 2016 at 10:31 AM
NRCS Civil Engineering Technician Michael Rosado has designed nearly 40 different types of conservation practices in his 32 years with the agency.

NRCS Civil Engineering Technician Michael Rosado has designed nearly 40 different types of conservation practices in his 32 years with the agency.

Demonstrates Extraordinary Service to the Public
Dedicated to Fulfilling USDA’s Mission

When it comes to recognizing NRCS Civil Engineering Technician Michael Rosado as an Unsung Hero, all the boxes are checked. It’s a no-brainer. He’s an employee of the highest caliber. He loves what he does and isn’t shy about who knows it! He takes pride in his work, and will talk about the agency to anyone who will listen.

One can’t help but wonder if it was fate that in 1985―one year after Rosado began his career with what was then the Soil Conservation Service―the Unsung Hero Award Program was created. It’s as if they were fulfilling a prophecy.

Rosado was hired in 1984 and assigned to the State Office engineering staff. While his official title is civil engineering technician, he also performs a great deal of engineering and conservation planning work. Over the years, Rosado’s willingness to take on additional responsibilities has transformed his position making him Connecticut’s go-to guy.  Read more >>

Related Links

Tags: employee, Connecticut

categories Communities


NRCS Conservationist Makes Positive Difference for Sage Grouse and Washington Ranchers

Posted by Thad Header, Sage Grouse Initiative, Coordinator on May 03, 2016 at 03:30 PM
Moses Coulee's intact sage-steppe range provides habitat for birds and wildlife. Kevin Guinn, pictured in the orange vest, has worked as an NRCS range management specialist since 1980.

Moses Coulee's intact sage-steppe range provides habitat for birds and wildlife. Kevin Guinn, pictured in the orange vest, has worked as an NRCS range management specialist since 1980.

When it comes to jobs, Kevin Guinn’s son said his dad won the lottery. That’s not because Kevin’s job is easy, but because it’s a perfect match, and Kevin gives it his all.

Kevin, state range management specialist with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), is the driving force behind the agency’s sage grouse conservation efforts in Washington State. NRCS is working side-by-side with ranchers and conservation partners to proactively conserve habitat for the iconic Western bird.

Kevin is known for his humble, roll-up-his sleeves approach. And his hard work has not gone unnoticed. This year, he is one of only a handful of USDA employees nationally to receive the USDA Unsung Hero Award. Read more >>

Tags: sage-grouse, NRCS employee, Washington

categories Landscape Initiatives, Plants & Animals