Tag Archives: USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service

Habitat partnership bats a thousand in Pennsylvania

Today we’re sharing the hard work of Tom and Wendy Belinda, who have dedicated themselves to conserving habitat for endangered Indiana Bats on their land in Blair County, Pennsylvania. White-nose syndrome, human disturbance, and habitat loss have caused our nation’s bat populations to plummet. Close proximity to places where bats roost and hibernate makes the Belindas’ property prime real estate for bat conservation in Pennsylvania.

Indiana Bats

Credit: Ann Froscheaur/USFWS

Working with federal agencies like the USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, along with the Pennsylvania Game Commission and local partners, has allowed the Belindas to manage their property for the benefit of Indiana Bats and other vulnerable species. However, enhancing the health of their forests not only improves wildlife habitat, it also boosts the value and productivity of their land. A true win-win.

Check out our bat story map to learn more about the nationwide effort to conserve bats.

For more information about white-nose syndrome, visit www.whitenosesyndrome.org.

What’s in a wetland?

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Ryan Crehan is a wildlife restoration biologist at the Lake Champlain Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office in Vermont.

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Chris Smith is a fish and wildlife biologist, and leads the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program at the Lake Champlain Fish and Wildlife Conservation office in Vermont

Wetlands are extraordinary, diverse places that provide critical habitat for countless birds, mammals, fish, plants, and invertebrates.  From nesting habitat for wood ducks to spawning grounds for northern pike, wetlands are vitally important to many fish and wildlife species.  In addition to wildlife habitat, wetlands provide numerous benefits such as flood protection, removing sediment and pollutants from lakes and rivers, and providing recreation opportunities.       

May is American Wetlands Month. In honor of these critical life support systems that protect our natural, cultural and economic resources, we bring you this inspiring video that highlights the incredible value and beauty of our natural world.

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Wetlands are among the world’s most productive environments. They allow for biological diversity and help maintain ecological balances in the natural world. Photo credit: USFWS

For the past 8 years, the Service’s Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program has collaborated with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources and dozens of willing landowners to help restore more than 3,000 acres of wetlands on private land for the benefit of wildlife and people in the Lake Champlain Basin.

Working in partnership, the project combined the funding and easement expertise of the NRCS with the biological and technical expertise of the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program which assessed potential sites, conducted outreach to landowners, surveyed, designed and handled permitting and oversaw the implementation of these projects.

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Ospreys are just one species that use wetland habitat for survival. As part of the restoration project, a team of biologists built a nesting platform to help attract ospreys and other birds. Photo credit: USFWS

Vicky Drew, the NRCS State Conservationist in Vermont, said of the partnership, “The success of NRCS’ wetland restoration projects is greatly facilitated by the expertise and dedication of our U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service partners. The cooperative working relationship that we have developed here in Vermont empowers us to restore and protect more wetland acres.”

This video highlights the success of the partnership while showcasing the significance of wetlands for both the natural world and the people that share it.

The Lake Champlain Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office

Soil Science: The Real Dirt Behind Coastal Resilience

Just another day on the job for Jim Turenne, Rhode Island's Assistant State Soil Scientist for the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. Credit: Soil Survey Staff

Just another day on the job for Jim Turenne, Rhode Island’s Assistant State Soil Scientist for the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. Credit: Soil Survey Staff

Beneath mountains and lakes, oceans and valleys, a treasure trove of hidden information is waiting to be discovered within the Earth’s soils. Jim Turenne has been unearthing and cataloging this valuable data since 1987, when he began working on county soil surveys in Massachusetts as a field soil mapper for the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service or NRCS – a federal agency formerly known as the U.S. Soil Conservation Service. The NRCS works with private landowners to maintain, enhance and conserve their natural resources but they also have a close-working, collaborative partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Today, Turenne serves as Rhode Island’s assistant state soil scientist. Most of his work in Rhode Island has involved collecting coastal and submerged soils data. Turenne works closely with the Service on a number of coastal resilience projects, including  Protecting Property and Helping Coastal Wildlife, an effort to strengthen natural areas to act as buffers against storms and sea-level rise. The project is among 31 FWS coastal resilience projects supported by federal funding for Hurricane Sandy recovery. Through the Service’s MapCoast Partnership (an organization dedicated to mapping coastal underwater resources) the Service gains invaluable soil data sometimes necessary for resilience work and NRCS gets to add that same information in their collective database.

Jim Turenne holds up a peat sample from what was a freshwater cedar swamp – now a tidal system and pond. Credit: Soil Survey Staff

Jim Turenne holds up a peat sample from what was a freshwater cedar swamp – now a tidal system and pond. Credit: Soil Survey Staff

As part of the Protecting Property and Helping Coastal Wildlife projectTurenne collected core soil sample data from the Narrow River in Narragansett, R.I. at John H. Chafee National Wildlife Refuge. One of the project goals is to build up marsh elevations along certain areas of the Narrow River to help compensate for a loss of sediment from storm and wave erosion, which leaves the marsh vulnerable to the effects of sea-level rise. Prior to dredging, soil samples were collected by Turenne and his team in site-specific locations to protect any possible cultural resources – or heritage assets – that might be hidden within soil layers. Core samples were also taken to determine if the wetland marsh soil could withstand the weight of 2-3 inches of sediment (dredge material) needed to successfully build up the marsh site.

Living shoreline project, oyster reefs, John H. Chafee NWR Credit: Amber Lira/FWS

A living shoreline project at John H. Chafee National Wildlife Refuge in Narragansett, R.I. using the technique of oyster reefs to buffer storm impact, strengthening the marsh. To determine marsh soil stability, Turenne would collect soil data from a site like this prior to construction. Credit: Amber Lira/FWS

Other resilience projects, such as the use of man-made oyster reefs to bolster natural shoreline protection, sometimes require soil sample collection before on the ground construction begins. Consider an oyster reef needed on a marsh site where very little is known about the soil composition. If tested beforehand, the soil sample results can help determine whether the weight of the oyster reef will be supported by the soils there. An oyster reef placed on a site where the soil cannot support its weight will cause the shells to sink into the mud, resulting in a less-effective natural buffer. The Service relies on soil sample studies to ensure living shorelines will stay in place, protecting the coast for years to come.

“It’s a privilege to be a part of the Sandy recovery effort and to help provide a strong foundation for communities and nature to better withstand future storms.” -Jim Turenne, Rhode Island assistant state soil scientist

Click here to view a short video from the WNBC WJAR 10 Watershed Watch Report, featuring Rhode Island Mapping Partnership for Coastal Soil and Sediment (www.mapcoast.org) Video courtesy of www.turntoten.com