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Picture it! Conservation.

By Spencer Miller, NRCS Washington, D.C.

This month USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service will be highlighting the value of conservation with a different focus each week.

Sometimes the benefits of conservation can be abstract. For example, think a minute about the dollar value of a single tree. Can you come up with a number?

Did you consider that the tree creates oxygen, captures carbon and provides wildlife habitat? Or that the tree serves as a windbreak, shades and cools the surrounding area, and improves water quality? Don't forget, these benefits extend for many decades over the lifetime of a healthy tree.

It’s easy to focus on measurable data and overlook abstract values. Perhaps the best way to highlight the benefits of conservation is through pictures. Below is a series of before/after photos of the good conservation can do.

Soil health and water quality are often related.

Water Soil Before
Water Soil After

By planting buffers and installing a stream crossing, this Maryland farmer reduced erosion and improved the stream’s water quality. Insect-pollinated plants provide about one-third of our food.

Pollinator Before
Pollinator After

This Pennsylvania farmer planted for pollinators, filling his land with flowers. This field attracts honeybees, which then pollinate nearby fruit trees. Conservation can reverse damage caused by wildfires.

Wildlife before
Wildlife after

In 2007 Elko Country, Nevada, was hit by wildfires that devastated grazing land and wildlife habitat. NRCS reacted quickly, planting soil stabilization crops. Within two years the area had largely recovered. Sometimes small changes make a big difference.

Rural Environment Before
Rural Environment After

Conservation improves the health of rural landscapes. For example, take this badly eroded pasture in Michigan. Critical area seeding and conservation-minded grazing practices let this pasture recover.

Keep checking back to see and learn more about the value of conservation.