Monthly Archives: July 2011

IASCD Expresses Concern to DEQ Over Possible Cuts to Water Monitoring

Yesterday, the Idaho Association of Soil Conservation Districts (IASCD) Board of Directors sent a letter to the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality’s Water Division expressing concern for water monitoring being cut from 319 grant funds. Water monitoring is a crucial part of the 319 grant process as it shows the numerous successes of Best Management Practice (BMP) implementation.

“Water monitoring is a critical part of the 319 grant process, and allows our water experts to show how the best management practices are improving water quality,” said Kit Tillotson, IASCD Vice-President. “The possible loss of water monitoring in the 319 grant process could severely damage the program, and adversely impact the water quality work done by our individual conservation districts.”

Idaho has had a number of successes because of the 319 grant program. For example, the Cascade Reservoir was suffering from algae blooms, resulting in poor fish habitat, and impairing recreational use of the reservoir. Water quality studies identified phosphorus as the main source of water degradation.

During Phase II Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) identified a reduction goal for point source loading of 4,455 kilograms per year total phosphorus. This project continues to rely on water monitoring to show how the BMPs decreased phosphorus and chlorophyll concentrations each year since 1994.

You can read the full text of the letter by clicking here.

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Secretary Salazar Announces $37.4 Million for State and Local Conservation and Outdoor Recreation Projects

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today announced $37.4 million from the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) in state grants to establish and renovate parks and open spaces throughout the 50 States, the Territories and the District of Columbia for Fiscal Year 2011. Idaho received $391,673 in LWCF grant funds. LWCF state grant funds are awarded through Federal matching grants that leverage public and private investment in America’s state and local public outdoor recreation.

The funds will enable State and local governments to establish urban parks and community green spaces; to restore and provide public access to rivers, lakes and other water resources; and to conserve natural landscapes for public outdoor recreation use and enjoyment.

For more information about this program in Idaho, please click here. You’ll need to scroll down the page a bit to see the information.

Click here to view the grant application.

Click here to read the 2009 Land and Water Conservation Fund Annual Report.

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Invasive Species Inventory Project in the West Central Sage Grouse Area

After a lot of hard work, the Invasive Species Inventory Project has finally been funded for the first phase of the project. The project started when Tom Yankey of the Lower Weiser River Cooperative Weed Management Area contacted Vicki Lukehart with the Weiser River Soil Conservation District to help write a grant and locate funds to begin an inventory project of jointed goatgrass and other noxious weeds that are in the local West Central Sage Grouse area. There was concern from the LWRCWMA about the rapid spread of jointed goatgrass and other noxious weeds.

Vicki contacted the Idaho Soil and Water Conservation Commission to see if there was interest in working with Weiser River SCD and LWRCWMA. The Commission expressed interest, and encouraged Vicki to contact Idaho Fish and Game. Vicki received a commitment from Fish and Game, as well as the Natural Resources Conservation Service in Idaho to fund the project. NRCS agreed to fund the project if the LWRCWMA and the Weiser River SCD could come up with 50% of the total cost. We were able to meet this goal, and came up with more than a 50% match for NRCS funding. The plan is to inventory where and how much Jointed Goat Grass is located in the West Central Sage Grouse Planning Area and then begin eradication. Because of the funding already received, Sharona Olsen from the Weiser River SCD will being inventory work.

Using a Global Positioning System, Sharona will track areas where jointed goatgrass is found, and will be downloaded onto a worksheet that the LWRCWMA and other partner agencies can use to treat problem areas. This was a joint effort, and not a project that any one person or agency could have successfully completed without working together as a team.

Here is a list of those agencies that have partnered to work on the Invasive Species Inventory and Control Project:
South West Idaho Resource Advisory Committee
Natural Resources Conservation Service
Idaho Department of Fish and Game
Bureau of Land Management
Lower Weiser River Cooperative Weed Management Area
West Central Highlands Resource Conservation and Development
Adams County Cooperative Weed Management Area
Weiser River Soil Conservation District
Washington County Farm Bureau
Friends of the Weiser River Trail

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Funding Available to Help Farmers Conserve Water in the Eastern Snake Plain Aquifer Region

Farmers in the Eastern Snake Plain Aquifer region must act quickly to apply for special Agricultural Water Enhancement Program funding from the Natural Resources Conservation Service to carry out water conservation practices. The sign-up period runs through July 20, 2011.

The Idaho Water Resources Board (IWRB) received special funding through USDA’s Agricultural Water Enhancement Program to help stabilize the Eastern Snake Plain Aquifer (ESPA). The project is a joint effort by the Idaho Water Resources Board and the NRCS.

Farmers can apply for funding to install conservation practices that help reduce ground water withdrawals and increase aquifer recharge. Financial support is available through the NRCS and producers apply to and contract directly with NRCS. Applications must be received by July 20, 2011.

The IWRB identified five actions to help reduce ground water withdrawals and increase water reaching the aquifer through infiltration and recharge: aquifer demand reduction; conversion to dry land farming; transition to crops with lower water requirements; conversion from ground irrigation water to surface water; and, enhancing irrigation systems to improve water delivery.

Stop in your local NRCS field office to find out if this voluntary program can help you. Click here to find out where your local service center is located.

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Hispanic and Women Claims Information

The United States Department of Agriculture contacted us asking we post and distribute the following information.

If you believe that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) improperly denied farm loan benefits to you between 1981 and 2000 because you are Hispanic or because you are female, you may be eligible to apply for compensation.

1. You sought a farm loan or farm-loan servicing during that period;

2. The loan was denied, provided late, approved for a lesser amount than requested, approved with restrictive conditions, or USDA failed to provide an appropriate loan service; and

3. You believe these actions were based on your being Hispanic or your being female.

In 2011, a claims administrator will begin mailing claims packages to those who have requested one through the Call Center or website. The claims package will have detailed information about the eligibility and claims process.

If you want to register your name to receive a claims package, access the Hispanic and Women Farmer and Rancher Call Center or website:

Call Center: 1-888-508-4429
Website: http://www.farmerclaims.gov

For guidance, you may contact a lawyer or other legal services provider in your community. Neither USDA or IASCD can provide legal advice to you.

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Palouse Prairie Restoration Projects Tour

On June 10, 2011, thirty-one participants joined staff from Latah Soil and Water Conservation District to tour several Palouse Prairie restoration projects in Latah and Whitman Counties.

Tour participants visited the USDA NRCS Pullman Plant Material Center, one private landowner site in Whitman County, and three private landowner sites in Latah County. Intermountain West Joint Venture funded this tour through a grant by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Cooperative Agreement with Ducks Unlimited. The main purpose of this tour was to provide an opportunity for landowners to talk with each other as well as with researchers and local experts about successful Palouse Prairie restoration methods. Many discussions were facilitated throughout the day as the landowners shared their experiences on their sites. The innovative and unique approaches to Palouse Prairie Restoration inspired all who participated in the tour.

This tour will be followed in late October by a Restoration Roundtable. The Roundtable will be open to a broader audience and will focus on topics requested by tour participants in order to keep the conversation flowing. Thanks to all who participated. It was a great day!

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NRCS Chief Dave White’s Testimony from July 7, 2011

Last week, the US House Subcommittee on Conservation, Energy and Forestry held a hearing titled “Agricultural Program Audit: Examination of Conservation Programs.” NRCS Chief Dave White was one of the witnesses, and delivered a great opening statement on the importance of conservation programs. If you missed the hearing, you can click here to listen to the audio archive.

Here are a few lines from his testimony. If you wish to read the full testimony from Chief White, please click here.

“The Sage-Grouse Initiative (SGI) is a great example of how landscape-scale conservation delivers broad benefits for agriculture. SGI focused conservation delivery within habitat core areas to help maintain large and intact grazing lands – important for the sage-grouse and for the rancher. In early 2010, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) determined sage-grouse to be a ‘candidate’ species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), which means listing is warranted but precluded by higher listing priorities and positive management actions that address threats to the species need to be taken to prevent listing. NRCS and FWS negotiated a first-of-its kind regional agreement that lets landowners know the investments they make today to benefit this declining species and the sustainability of their ranching operation by implementing NRCS conservation practices according to the SGI Conference Report can continue should sage-grouse be listed at a future date.”

“In FY 2010, EQIP financial assistance obligations by States reached almost $840 million in 36,500 contracts covering an estimated 13 million acres.”

“… conservation programs play an essential role in the Nation’s food security. Conservation helps to make farms and ranches more resilient to risks – whether from pests, disease, floods, or drought – and helps producers adapt to the challenges. Our farmers and ranchers know better than anyone the value of clean water, clear air and healthy soil for agricultural production. They know that land stewardship secures the future, and they have made incredible strides to protect the land they rely on.”

“These investments in private lands conservation are good for farmers, ranchers, and forestland owners—reduced input costs directly help the bottom line, while improved soil and water quality help maintain and even enhance long-term productivity while minimizing regulatory pressures. These same investments in conservation work for all Americans, by contributing to healthy landscapes, healthy communities, and to the food security of our nation and the world.”

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