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Category: Plants & Animals

More Boots on the Ground to Help Declining Songbird in Minnesota

Posted by Julie MacSwain, Minnesota Public Affairs Specialist on July 05, 2016 at 07:54 AM
The golden-winged warbler breeds in the Great Lakes region and the Appalachian Mountains. Photo: DJ McNeil

The golden-winged warbler breeds in the Great Lakes region and the Appalachian Mountains. Photo: DJ McNeil

Minnesota is a stronghold for the golden-winged warbler, a bird suffering a significant population decline. A new project brings together a nonprofit, a federal agency and private landowners to slow or even reverse this decline.

Golden-winged warblers depend on young forests for nesting. But across the country, including in Minnesota, forests have changed, and older forests have come to dominate huge areas. Both game and non-game species that rely on young forests are in decline.  Read more >>

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Tags: West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, forests, Working Lands for Wildlife, golden-winged warbler, Minnesota, Regional Conservation Partnership Program, Great Lakes region, Appalachian region

categories Landscape Initiatives, Conservation Programs, Discover Conservation, Environment, Plants & Animals


Forests through the Ages: the Importance of Young Forests

Posted by Bridgett Estel Costanzo, NRCS Working Lands for Wildlife East Coordinator on July 01, 2016 at 09:03 AM
Like other wildlife that depend on young forests, the golden-winged warbler uses openings created by natural or human-induced disturbances. Photo by Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

Like other wildlife that depend on young forests, the golden-winged warbler uses openings created by natural or human-induced disturbances. Photo by Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

As a nature lover and professional biologist, I like to brag that our daughters can identify trees, birds, insects, and even snakes. But one day I received a tiny stab to my prideful heart. 

Our daughter, Natalie, had created a poster for her elementary school ecology class that had the message “Don’t kill trees!” When I saw it, I realized that in teaching her about trees, I hadn’t passed on to her an important lesson: that forests go through stages of life just like people do.  Read more >>

Tags: Working Lands for Wildlife, habitat restoration, forests

categories Landscape Initiatives, Discover Conservation, Environment, Plants & Animals


Shade-Grown Coffee Yields a Better Product and Top-Notch Wildlife Habitat

Posted by Julie Wright, Acting Caribbean Area Public Affairs Specialist on June 30, 2016 at 02:57 PM
Shade-grown coffee plantations provide habitat for the Puerto Rican parrot. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service photo.

Shade-grown coffee plantations provide habitat for the Puerto Rican parrot. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service photo.

By growing coffee in the shade under a forest canopy instead of directly in the sun, Puerto Rico farmers help a variety of wildlife and improve the quality of their crop.

The coffee shrub, which originated in Ethiopia, grows naturally in the shade. But over the years, many Puerto Rican growers cleared shade trees to boost yields. Now, in an effort to grow higher-quality coffee and conserve natural resources and help wildlife, the island’s growers are bringing back shade trees.

Shade-grown coffee is especially important to wildlife in places where deforestation is common. Shade-grown coffee plantations provide refuge, shelter and nesting sites for the Puerto Rican parrot, sharp-shinned hawk, Puerto Rico nightjar, elfin woods warbler, and many other birds and wildlife species. Researchers have suggested that both birds and orchids have survived periods of deforestation in Puerto Rico because of the presence of shade coffee plantations.  Read more >>

Tags: Caribbean Area, pollinators

categories Landscape Initiatives, Discover Conservation, Environment, Plants & Animals


Not All Monarchs Migrate! The Puerto Rican Subspecies Stays Put

Posted by Julie Wright, Caribbean Area Acting Public Affairs Specialist on June 23, 2016 at 01:08 PM
A Puerto Rican monarch butterfly in a garden at the University of Puerto Rico's Utuado butterfly house.

A Puerto Rican monarch butterfly in a garden at the University of Puerto Rico's Utuado butterfly house.

The monarch butterfly is the iconic butterfly native of the Americas. The black-and-orange butterfly can migrate thousands of miles each year from North America and South America to Mexico. But the subspecies in Puerto Rico, Danaus plexippus portorricensis, is considered non-migrant. It likes to stay put! 


The Puerto Rican monarch butterfly was identified in 1941 as a separate subspecies. It has also been found in the Virgin Islands, Cuba, the Cayman Islands, St. Lucia and Jamaica.  


The adult Puerto Rican monarch grows up to 40 millimeters in size, and there are few differences to distinguish between the sexes. Like the monarch, the Puerto Rican monarch is particular about its host plants. Monarch butterflies depend on milkweed to lay their eggs, and the plant provides the only food source for monarch caterpillars.  Read more >>

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Tags: Caribbean Area, pollinators, monarch butterfly

categories Plants & Animals, Discover Conservation


Conservationists by Heart, Farmers by Trade

Posted by Amy Overstreet, Vermont Public Affairs Officer on June 14, 2016 at 02:46 PM
The Hulett family (left to right) Mandy, Richard, and their children.

The Hulett family (left to right) Mandy, Richard, and their children.

Vermont dairy farmers use bedded pack to help improve the herd, environment, and farm

For nearly 20 years, Richard Hulett and his father, Dick, have protected and improved the natural resources on Deer Flats Farm, their 1,000-acre cattle farm near Pawlet, Vermont. Winters in Pawlet can be long and snow, ice, mud, and manure can build up. That’s why the Huletts decided to put a bedded pack system to work on their operation.

Prior to the bedded pack, the cattle were on pasture. “It was a mess,” says Richard.   

“These barn systems are covered by a roof and filled with bedding material to provide manure storage and improve animal comfort and health,” says Sally Eugair, an NRCS soil conservation technician. Bedding costs are much higher for bedded pack than for any other housing, but can improve herd health by providing comfortable places for herds to spend the winter months.  Read more >>

Tags: Vermont

categories Farmer & Rancher Stories, Conservation Programs, Discover Conservation, Plants & Animals


Rhode Island Farm a ‘Riot of Pollinator Activity’

Posted by Gary Casabona, Rhode Island State Biologist on June 02, 2016 at 02:43 PM
An American copper butterfly gathers nectar from anise hyssop.

An American copper butterfly gathers nectar from anise hyssop.

Amid a sea of lance-leaf coreopsis, partridge pea and anise hyssop growing on Godena Farm, you hear a faint buzz. It’s the sound of bees hard at work—and proof of a healthy landscape.

The Conanicut Island Land Trust purchased the Jamestown, Rhode Island farm to conserve open space and create a permanent sanctuary for pollinators. Managers of the 25-acre farm have planted wildflowers and warm-season grasses, improving habitat for bees and other pollinators, as well as wildlife. And the result? It’s what Quentin Anthony, the land trust’s president, calls “a riot of pollinator activity.”   

Even though crops are no longer grown on the farm, its bee hives, maintained by the trust and the Rhode Island Beekeepers Association, yield substantial amounts of honey thanks to the farm’s abundance of bees and wildflowers.  Read more >>

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Tags: pollinators, Rhode Island

categories Plants & Animals, Farmer & Rancher Stories


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