USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service has a new web-based soil survey. I quickly was able to define an “Area of Interest” and produce both a soils map and access information about the soil types (RUSLE information, building suitability, flooding potential, etc.). Once you have the soil map for your farm, you can go to NRCS’s new soil rental rate site (which I reviewed earlier) and enroll in Farm Bill conservation programs. NRCS is doing some nice work with their web-based technical tools lately.
June 22-27, 2009 is National Pollinator Week to recognize the importance of pollinators to our food system. The Pollinator Partnership and US Fish & Wildlife Service both have lots of resources about pollinators in recognition of this week.
Here are two videos for this week.
One about the problems pollinators face:
And one about what NRCS is doing and can do to help:
USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service has an online plant identification key (use MS Explorer). It has state specific keys for grasses and legumes, plus keys for gymnosperms and wetland monocots in the US.
NRCS and the American Farmland Trust have put together a Farmland Information Center with lots of resources (searchable) on the economics, legislation and practicality of preserving and protecting farmland.
The Comprehensive Review of Farm Bill Benefits to Wildlife reviews the impacts of USDA Conservation Programs on wildlife habitat and populations from 1885-2000. Much of the document focuses on grassland birds because the vast majority of the enrolled acres are in grass practices, and most of the available research is on birds. There are chapters specifically on waterfowl & CRP, grassland birds & CRP, and grassland birds & buffer practices. The Southeast and Midwest each get their own chapter. There are chapters on Swampbuster, WRP, WHIP and EQUIP. The list of authors is impressive – Pete Heard, Douglas Johnson, Louis Best, just to name a few. The highlight of the document is an extensive annotated bibliography. Fifteen years of ag-wildlife research in one volume. The individual chapters are available HERE. The chapters by Burger, Ryan, and Best are central texts in my Ag-Wildlife course.
In 2005, the NRCS in conjunction with the Wildlife Society produced two additional reviews.
The first one – Fish & Wildlife Benefits of Farm Bill Conservation Programs – covers the first half of this decade. Some chapters from the 1985-2000 document are present in revised form (e.g., Johnson, Grassland Bird Use of CRP in the Great Plains; Burger, The CRP in the Southeast; Reynolds, The CRP and Duck Production in the US Prairie Pothole region). There are also several new chapters on the CREP, the Grassland Reserve Program, and the Conservation Security Program. This update lacks the annotated bibliography of the first document. Individual chapters are available HERE. Hard copy can be be purchased from the Wildlife Society.
The second one – Fish & Wildlife Benefits of Farm Bill Conservation Practices – organizes the reviews by particular types of conservation practices, which can be useful from an objective-oriented planning perspective. Chapters include ones on cropland conservation practices, grassland establishment, agricultural buffers, grassland conservation practices, wetland establishment practices, and effects of conservation practices on aquatic habitats and fauna. The final chapter summarizes ways of “Using Adaptive Management to Meet Conservation Goals.” Individual chapters are available HERE. Hard copy can be be purchased from the Wildlife Society.
Conservation Corridor Planning at the Landscape Level (CCPLL) is now part 613 of USDA NRCS National Biology Handbook. Overall, it is an excellent resource aimed at conservation practitioners. It is clearly written in a way that can be understood by laymen without sacrificing scientific content. It is suitable as a supplemental text in advanced undergraduate and perhaps graduate level courses. I have used it as a primary text in my Managing Wildlife in Agricultural Landscapes course.
After a brief introduction, the second chapter of CCPLL reviews the ecological effects of fragmentation. The third chapter describes the different types and functions of corridors. Together, these two chapters review the principles of landscape ecology most relevant to conservation in agricultural landscapes. The fourth chapter moves into ecologically-based design principles, although amount of real empirical verification for varies among them (i.e. some of them are better bets than others). The last two chapters move away from ecology and into area-wide planning process and conservation planning.
A major advantage of this document are the case studies sprinkled generously throughout each chapter. A second major advantage is that it is available free here (very large pdf).
Get Windbreaks for Conservation from USDA National Agroforestry Center. It is an excellent guide to design considerations for conservation windbreaks. You may have to supplement regional woody plant species information to select the appropriate trees & shrubs for your region. They have additional windbreak publications including Windbreaks for Wildlife, How Windbreaks Work, & many other more detailed aspects of windbreak design, establishment and management.