National Issues

Delmarva Fox Squirrel officially recovered

By National Wildlife Refuge Association

Delmarva Fox Squirrel | Kathy Abend

Delmarva Fox Squirrel | Kathy Abend

Great news! On September 19 Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewell and Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Dan Ashe announced at Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to delist the Delmarva Fox Squirrel. This is the 52nd species to be delisted from the Endangered Species Act. The species was listed in 1967 due to habitat loss from development and timber harvesting in their native range.

“It takes a real village to protect a squirrel,” said Jewell at the announcement, noting the many partners who banded together to help with recovery efforts. Sen. Ben Cardin, D-MD, and Gov. Martin O’Malley also attended, thanking the community members and private landowners who worked together to protect wildlife and the local forest economy.

These cute fluffy critters were once found throughout the Delmarva Peninsula. Unfortunately, at the time of listing, their range had been reduced to 10% of its original size and only occurred in three counties and a small island in one other county. This was due in large part to habitat loss from development and timber harvesting. The squirrels need mature trees for den sites as well as for a food source: mature trees provide more acorns.

Recovery efforts for this wonderful little creature began in 1945 when the Maryland Department of Natural Resources bought LeCompte Wildlife Management Area in DorchesterCounty. In 1971, legal hunting of the squirrel was banned. And then after the listing of the species, the Delmarva Peninsula Fox Squirrel Recovery Team began to work with the State on conservation efforts including reintroduction of the species into counties where it was originally found.

Over 10 years later, 11 out of the 16 reintroduced populations are succeeding. The Delmarva Fox Squirrel is primarily found on privately owned land and can thrive in a landscape that is managed for farming and sustainable timber harvest. Uncut corn or soybeans along hedgerows can be left for the squirrel’s winter food provided by the farmers. Developers and timber harvesters also help the squirrel by leaving woodlot trees that produce nuts, seeds, and berries and also provide corridors from one woodlot to another.

Thanks to the wonderful efforts of these private landowners, the state of Maryland, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the population of this squirrel is finally high enough to be taken off the endangered species list since it has been fully recovered.

For more information see these resources:

Fact sheet from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Species information from the Chesapeake Bay Program 

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Species Profile

Maryland Department of Natural Resources Species Profile

Conservation funding issues on Nov. 4 ballots

From Wildlife Management Instituteimage001

On Election Day this year, a number of state and local conservation funding initiatives will be on the ballot for voters to consider with the potential of over $25 billion being dedicated for conservation and restoration. The largest initiatives in Florida, New Jersey, North Dakota, California and Maine bring a variety of opportunities for funding land conservation, water quality and outdoor recreation. But support for these initiatives also vary with opponents like state chambers of commerce actively working against some of the efforts, reports the Wildlife Management Institute.

By far the largest initiative is being considered in Florida where an estimated $18 billion is at stake. Amendment 1 is a constitutional amendment that would dedicate 33 percent of annual revenue raised through an existing tax on real estate transactions over the next 20 years to conservation projects. While the state has had bipartisan support for conservation spending, appropriations have declined dramatically in recent years undermining efforts for land conservation and Everglades restoration. Amendment 1 would fund the state’s Land Acquisition Trust Fund to acquire, restore, improve, and manage conservation lands including: wetlands and forests; fish and wildlife habitat; lands protecting water resources and drinking water sources, including the Everglades, and the water quality of rivers, lakes, and streams; beaches and shores; outdoor recreational lands; working farms and ranches; and historic or geologic sites. The amendment requires a 60 percent supermajority vote in support to be approved and is broadly supported by diverse organizations. While the Florida Chamber of Commerce, Farm Bureau and other groups oppose the initiative, current polling suggests that it is receiving strong support from voters.

New Jersey is also considering a constitutional amendment for long-term, dedicated funding for a variety of environmental and conservation programs. The state has a long history of support at the ballot for programs like the state’s Green Acres land preservation efforts. However, this is the first time the state is seeking dedicated funding that is estimated to total $2.15 billion over the next 20 years to acquire land prone to flooding, protect natural areas, farmland and watersheds, and provide for parks, historic preservation, underground storage tank removal and brownfield remediation. If approved, Public Question #2 will reallocate 4 percent of an existing state corporate business tax for an estimated $71 million annually for the first four years, and beginning in 2019, it would dedicate an additional 2 percent of business tax revenues increasing the annual funding to $117 million. While municipalities, counties and agricultural boards across the state generally support the amendment, Americans for Prosperity has led opposition against the amendment along with the state’s governor, Chris Christie.

In North Dakota, the Clean Water, Wildlife and Parks constitutional amendment, Measure 5, would dedicate 5 percent of tax revenue from oil development for conservation and recreation over the next 25 years. Funds would be used for water quality, natural flood control, fish and wildlife habitat, parks and outdoor recreation areas, access for hunting and fishing, the acquisition of land for parks, and outdoor education for children. While North Dakota has seen dramatic losses of prairie habitat in recent years, this initiative is receiving the greatest opposition from business interests including the American Petroleum Institute, the Chamber of Commerce and state agricultural interests who claim that farmlands would be purchased to take them out of production. However, the amendment does not change the North Dakota Corporate Farming Law that prohibits most conservation groups from buying land without governor approval.

“My family has always prided itself on having a strong conservation ethic. Conservation programs funded through Measure 5 will be 100 percent voluntary and could benefit all farming and ranching operations in North Dakota if producers wish to take part. Producers could use grant dollars for things like buffers along waterways, cover crops to advance soil health, enhanced grazing systems, and improved wildlife habitat on marginal areas,” said Gabe Brown, an agricultural producer supporting the amendment. “The fact is, Measure 5 will benefit family farms and ranches across North Dakota.”

Both California and Maine are considering bonds that will improve the states’ water infrastructure. California will be considering a $7.5 billion bond for watershed protection and restoration, forest health, wetland habitat and for additional water storage. Proposition 1 would make improvements to a water system that has been significantly impacted by the current drought in the state. In Maine, Question 6 would create a $10 million bond to fund natural and built infrastructure to reduce threats to the state’s water resources, improve stormwater management, and conserve habitat for recreational fisheries, waterfowl, and aquatic and other wildlife species.

In addition to the statewide ballot initiatives, a number of counties and local communities are also considering conservation funding proposals. This includes Los Angeles County, California; Portland, Oregon; Missoula, Montana, Larimer County, Colorado; Benton County,Washington; Bernalillo County, New Mexico, and Beaufort County, South Carolina. In total there are 39 measures being tracked by The Trust for PublicLand’s Land Vote this election season.


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is getting pressure from environmental and sustainable agriculture organizations and members of Congress to investigate and restrict the use of neonicotinoids, a class of pesticides linked to declining pollinator populations.

Neonicotinoids are being cited as one of several factors contributing to Colony Collapse Disorder in bees, leading to sharp population decline in recent years.  In the past year, the abrupt reduction of pollinator numbers has led to a two-year ban on neonicotinoids in Europe, a class action lawsuit from beekeepers in Canada, and a federal strategy outlined by the Obama Administration to promote pollinator health.

On September 30, 2014, Representatives Earl Blumenaur (D-OR), John Conyers (D-MI), and 58 other Democratic Representatives co-signed a letter urging the EPA to restrict neonicotinoid use.

The letter outlines nine policy recommendations, including restricting—and in some cases, suspending—the use of neonicotinoids depending on timing, methods, and location of the pesticide’s application.  The signing Representatives also call for cost-benefit analyses for neonicotinoid pesticide registration and assessing neonicotinoid-treated seeds, which are currently exempt from major federal pesticide regulations.

Six days prior, 17 non-profit organizations submitted an 11-page letter commenting on the EPA’s process for assessing neonicotinoid pesticides.  Among the signers were several NSAC member organizations: Family Farm Defenders, Midwest Organic Sustainable Education Service, Northwest Center for Alternatives to PesticidesPesticide Action Network – North AmericaSlowFood USA, and Women, Food and Agriculture Network.

The letter introduces several recommendations echoed by the Democratic Representatives, including tougher regulations on neonicotinoid pesticides and an end to unregulated status for treated seeds.  The groups also provide information on how neonicotinoids pose a threat to plants, pollinators, and birds listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  The groups criticize the Agency’s failure to comply with the ESA during the pesticide assessment process, arguing that the Mississippi sandhill crane, southwestern willow flycatcher, and other listed bird species are at risk from neonicotinoids.

Both letters were written as the EPA considers a petition from Syngenta to increase allowable levels of thiamethoxam, a neonicotinoid insecticide, for a variety of crops.  As neonicotinoid-coated seeds fail to control pests later in the growing season, Syngenta claims spraying of the pesticide on alfalfa, corn, barley, and wheat is essential—thus prompting the petition to EPA.

Future of Our Public Lands

It Might Not Sound Sexy, But It’s the Future of Our Public Lands

By Ann Morgan

National Wildlife Federation

Except for a minute number of policy wonks, what could be more uninteresting and bureaucratic than land use planning? Maybe land use planning for lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management. Yet I would argue that it should be of interest to many, many Americans. After all, this is something that affects 250 million acres of your lands — lands where you hike, bike, camp, fish, hunt and watch wildlife.

Land use planning for these federal lands, found mostly in the 11 Western states and Alaska, is driven by a complex suite of federal laws, regulations, and agency policy handbooks. On top of that, they are interpreted by case law, illustrated with dozens of maps, written on many hundreds of pages, accompanied by dozens of appendixes, filled with scientific and bureaucratic jargon, and can cover millions of acres.

Even the terminology the BLM is using to describe its latest initiative — Planning 2.0 — conjures up visions of another dense file to put on a shelf or banish to a hard drive.

But here’s why you should care. BLM’s land use plans, called Resource Management Plans, decide how your lands will be managed. These plans can affect the size and health of mule deer herds and sage-grouse habitat. BLM management plans identify where oil and gas leases will be offered and determine where roads and trails can be built. These decisions are crucial to those who live in nearby communities, hunt and fish and camp on public lands, cherish and record the vast archeological resources hidden there, or make their living ranching or outfitting on public lands.

Because this is complicated, it is important for those who understand the process to participate and to help others participate. The National Wildlife Federation has worked with hunters, anglers, wildlife lovers and outdoor enthusiasts for decades to help their voices be heard. Denver is the site of one of two public sessions on a new approach to planning that could, with the right guidelines, ensure the integrity of important wildlife habitat, watersheds and recreation areas for generations to come.

So, when you break it down, this process is really about what we value. It’s about a great American legacy — public lands. And it’s about whether that legacy — along with our great deer, elk and pronghorn herds, sage-grouse, native cutthroat trout, pristine waters, remote backcountry — will endure.

The National Wildlife Federation, its partners in the Sportsmen for Responsible Energy Development coalition — Trout Unlimited and the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership — and six NWF state affiliates have submittedrecommendations for improving the public lands planning process. We want to keep key landscapes intact and conserve important ecosystems. We need to consider mule deer migration corridors and species and habitats in the bull’s eye of climate change. We need to be smart from the start when deciding where to drill or install utility-scale solar and wind projects.

A critical part of any planning process is identifying the places to just leave alone. Instead of saying that areas are open to development unless specifically closed, let’s try a “closed-unless-deemed-appropriate” approach.

The demands of the West’s growing population, the increasing conflicts between energy development and fish and wildlife resources, and the challenges of juggling all the competing uses, which is BLM’s mission, means the agency will have its work cut out for it.

Learn how cover crops can help fight algae blooms

By Lara Bryant

NWF Blog

Erie Algae Bloom. Photo from NASA, via Wikimedia Commons

Erie Algae Bloom. Photo from NASA, via Wikimedia Commons

Around the world, millions of people do not have access to clean drinking water. In the Eastern half of the US, however, most people have become accustomed to having unlimited clean water for drinking, bathing, and cooking, and we often take our water supply for granted. Last month, when hundreds of thousands in the Toledo area temporarily lost their drinking water due to contamination from a toxic algae bloom, and as California continues to experience extreme drought, we are reminded of how critically important it is to protect source water through the Clean Water Act by supporting the EPA in its efforts to protect America’s waters.

Freshwater algal blooms, as the one in Lake Erie, and hypoxic dead zones, like the one in the Gulf of Mexico, are caused due to excess phosphorus and nitrogen that comes from many sources. Most scientific assessments have pinpointed agricultural runoff from cropland and animal operations as the leading cause of excess nitrogen and phosphorus in the Mississippi RiverLake Erie, and the Chesapeake BayExtreme weather events exacerbate the problem. However, the problem is not without solutions, and we should be using every tool we have to clean up our water.

Cover crops are an excellent, but underutilized, management tool for reducing the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus runoff from agricultural land. After Toledo’s water crisis in August, the USDA offered $2 million in conservation funds for farmers to plant cover crops in the Lake Erie watershed.

Cover crops improve water quality by:

▪ Reducing runoff by holding the soil on the ground,

▪ Using nutrients so that they don’t pollute surface and groundwater, and

▪ Improving soil quality, which increases water infiltration, slowing the movement of nutrients.

Recent USDA research has shown that planting cover crops can reduce sediment and nutrient pollution by more than 50%, compared to the status quo of conventional tillageCover crops are becoming increasingly popular, but they are still not common. The 2012 census of agriculture found that there were 10 million acres of cover crops planted nationwide – that is only 2.6% of cropland. In Ohio, there are 357,292 acres planted to cover crops; that is a lot, but it is still only about 3% of total cropland in the state.

Cover crop field day in Ohio. Photo from cover crop champion Bret Margraf, Seneca Soil and Water Conservation District

Cover crop field day in Ohio. Photo from cover crop
champion Bret Margraf, Seneca Soil and Water
Conservation District

Cover crops are also a less expensive way to fight water pollution. Nationwide, it cost utilities $4.8 billion to remove nitrates from drinking water, and $1.7 billion of that was from agriculture. The algal bloom in Lake Erie has already cost the City of Toledo $4 million annually to remove toxins from the water. It is simpler to keep harmful pollutants out of the water in the first place. For example, a study estimated that the average cost of controlling phosphorus at treatment plants in the Fox-Wolf River Basin in Wisconsin was $73/lb. Compare this to case studies from an NWF report, which found that cover crops cost between $0.36-40/lb of phosphorus.

Cover crops won’t solve all water quality problems, but they can do a lot at a relatively low cost, especially considering that a USDA survey found that 63% of farmers who plant cover crops in theMississippiRiver Basin are willing to pay for it out of their own pocket.

Send an email to the EPA to show your support for the Clean Water Act.

You can also help by getting involved in your local watershed planning and encouraging your utilities, watershed groups, and others to start cover crop initiatives like those featured in NWF’s Clean Water Grows report. There is a lot of misinformation regarding the Waters of the US rule; visit EPA’s website to get the facts.

Excerpt from Field & Stream: A Threat to Sportsmen, and Now, a Threat to a Way of Life

By Hall Herring

                Land & Conservation Coalition FundField &

Over the past 18 months, I’ve spent an awful lot of time writing about, and talking about, the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Boring, right? The reading and writing equivalent of a tow sack full of Ambien. Who would do this, especially in the summer, when the Trico hatch is swirling in huge smoky columns on the Missouri River, the heads of big rainbows showing like makos in every seam of current? What am I thinking under these fluorescent lights as I hear through my window the whistling wings of south-bound mourning doves that will not be here for the shooting in a few more days? My Lab stands and stares at me, then flops down again under the table that holds the fax machine. He groans. My son is home from school and shooting his bow in the yard.

Here’s what I’ve been thinking. As Bob Marshall pointed out in his recent post about the LWCF only being fully funded twice in the course of its 50-year history, the chronic assaults on this landmark program endanger sportsmen. The Fund, which costs the taxpayer absolutely nothing, is a big part of why America still has public hunting and fishing at all.

We hunters and fishermen are the direct beneficiaries of a visionary program from 1965 which has paid for everything from building rural swimming pools so kids on the Nebraska prairie can learn to swim and don’t drown in the irrigation ditch, to urban wildlife refuges in flood-prone parts of New Orleans, to fishing access sites across the nation. It’s a frustrating and even depressing fact that the LWCF has been under assault all these years, and we don’t even know it. We fish with our children at a place that would be completely off limits to us without LWCF, and 95 percent of us there have no idea why we have that freedom, or how it can be kept for the future. We don’t even know the LWCF exists.

Our ignorance is as dangerous to our nation as any scraggle-bearded terror junky careening around the moonscape of the Middle East. The LWCF and programs like it are why our country works. Why we have what we have. Why we are who we are.

I’m thinking of our military, and how recent studies show that more than one out of four young men in our country is too overweight to pass the test to join up, even if they want to. Why? It would be comforting to blame it all on computers and video games and junk food, but that’s only part of it. The other part is that a majority of what used to be, only two decades ago, an active outdoor people, no longer has the space and freedom to be active and outdoors. Population has doubled in my lifetime. The number of hunters has fallen. Open space is under siege by waves of development, and urban kids have fewer and fewer places to play and exercise and be outdoors. We are losing critical wetlands to agricultural development for a booming world market, not because farmers want to fill them in and farm them (American farmers have the same rising expenses as the rest of us, and have to make money), but because we have not come up with the funds for conservation easements that would compete successfully with the profits of the industrial, scorched earth-style agriculture that has become our norm.

The wealthiest among us have unprecedented access to hunting and fishing, shooting, open spaces, athletics, and other outdoor recreation, but it’s not the wealthiest among us who fight our wars, is it? It’s not the wealthiest among us who I meet catfishing on the river, or elk hunting on public land, or reading Field & Stream. It is the American families who need public lands and clean public waters and fish and game to chase; places to learn to shoot, run, swim, climb trees and jump creeks.

Teddy Roosevelt said in 1912, “This country will not be a permanently good place for any of us to live in unless we make it a reasonably good place for all of us to live in.” All through my life, this country has been more than just a good place for all of us to live in. It has been the greatest place on this planet to live in. It’s not a mystery why it has been that way. It did not just happen, either. Americans made it that way, with programs like the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

No nation in history has ever been saved by the passively uninformed. Make your voice heard now.

Funding for critical farm bill conservation programs in danger!

                                                                                                National Issues

The House FY 2015 agriculture appropriations bill proposes to cut $109 million (more than 1 million acres) from the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), $209 million from the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), and $60 million from the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP).

The agriculture appropriations bill passed by the Senate Appropriations Committee would cut EQIP spending by $250 million, but would not cut funding for the other conservation programs.  All of these cuts are from the levels approved by Congress earlier this year when it passed the 2014 Farm Bill.

On top of conservation cuts, the House bill slashes the farm bill funding for the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) by 40 percent, from $50 million to $30 million.  REAP helps farmers adopt renewable energy (such as wind and solar) and energy conservation technologies.

The ink barely had time to dry on the new farm bill before these attempts to unravel the decisions on conservation and renewable energy funding.  Not included in either appropriations bills are any similar proposed changes or cuts to commodity or crop insurance subsidies.

The proposed cuts to conservation and renewable energy programs would result in increased water pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, soil erosion, and habitat loss, and should be rejected in upcoming negotiations.

Contact your congressman and Senators and let them know how you feel about fully funding conservation programs at the levels they agreed to in the 2014 Farm Bill.

What do Cover Crops have to do with Wildlife?

By Lara Bryant
NWF’s Wildlife Promise

National Wildlife Federation has been working hard for the past few years to overcome barriers and support champions of cover crop adoption. In fact, we just released two new reports on cover crops: Counting Cover Crops and Clean Water Grows. When I explain my work to people, they often ask, “What are cover crops, and why is National Wildlife Federation promoting them?”
Cover crops are grown in between cash crops, to cover the soil when it would ordinarily be bare or fallow. Cover crops hold the soil in place on the land, and keep it from washing away into rivers and streams. Cover crops improve water quality and soil quality, and they also sequester carbon, which helps mitigate climate change. Climate change has been identified as one of the greatest threats to wildlife, and clean water is a key ingredient for wildlife habitat. Some cover crops, such as buckwheat, may also benefit wildlife as winter forage and cover, while others, such as red and white clover, are great for pollinators. So, as far as wildlife is concerned, cover crops are the bee’s knees.


Cover crops make bees happy. Photo: flick user steveburt1947

Wildlife and Cover Crops in the Mississippi River Basin (MRB)
The Mississippi River Basin is the world’s fourth largest watershed. Did you know that parts of 30 states from the Appalachians to the Rockies drain into the Mississippi? Thousands of species live near or depend on the 12 major rivers that drain into the Mississippi – black bears, alligators, and map turtles, to name a few. Needless to say, clean water in the MRB is a priority for wildlife.
Yet, Counting Cover Crops shows that cover crops are grown on only 1.8 million acres, or less than 2% of cropland in the Mississippi River Basin (MRB). Instead of looking at the glass like it’s half empty, let’s say that there is a tremendous opportunity to improve wildlife habitat on working lands and in rivers and streams by getting more cover crops on the ground.
By 2025, NWF would like to see 100 million acres of cover crops planted across the United States; 60 million acres would be in the MRB. But how can that vision become reality? We wrote Clean Water Grows to provide some examples of successful efforts to grow more cover crops.
I interviewed 14 hard-working people who are improving water quality in the MRB, the Great Lakes, and the Chesapeake Bay. It was inspiring to hear about water utilities and state agencies working with local conservation districts and farmers to reduce water pollution with cover crops.
For example, in Indiana, three counties banded together and used funding from Clean Water Indiana to provide expert assistance and partially fund the cost for farmers in their districts to plant cover crops. They planted 7,000 acres of cover crops across the three counties in two years. This kept 2,380 tons of sediment, 2,942 lbs of phosphorus, and 5,880 lbs of nitrogen from reaching rivers and streams, annually. Imagine how much cleaner the Gulf of Mexico would be if 60 million acres of cover crops were planted in the MRB?
Read more inspiring stories in Clean Water Grows, and think of how cover crops could clean lakes, rivers, and estuaries near you.

Meet the Cover Crop Champions

By Lara Bryant

NWF’s Wildlife Promise


Last year NWF began a new program for cover crop expert farmers and agricultural professionals, called the “Cover Crop Champions.” The champions receive small grants to pay the cost of their travel, time, and various expenses to share their expertise and passion for cover crops with farmers in their region. Recently, NWF staff took a look at the champions’ first year reports and found that so farour champions have directly reached nearly 2,500 farmers and over 100,000 more indirectly through media. We calculate that this will result in at least 42,651 new acres of cover crops in the Mississippi River Basin – which is great for wildlife and reducing pollution in the Gulf of Mexico! Cover crops not only help hold soil in place and clean water, but they can also provide forage and cover for wildlife.  Read more here.


Is there a cover crop champion near you? NWF accepted applicants from Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin to share their expertise. Map created by NWF staff using Batchgeo.

According to the 2012 Agricultural Census, 10.3 million acres of cover crops were planted nationwide in 2012. USDA has a goal to get 20 million acres of cover crops planted by 2020. The cover crop champions can help pave the way to reaching that goal.

We had time to catch up with a couple of our champions and hear their stories, which I have shared below.


Bobwhite photo donated by National Wildlife Photo Contest

entrant Douglas Elsaesser.

Mark Peterson, Iowa

Mark Peterson farms approximately 400 acres of row crops in a corn and soybean rotation. Mark started growing cover crops two years ago, after learning about their benefits from experts at Practical Farmers of Iowa, a farmer-led non-profit organization that values good agricultural stewardship.

Since he started growing cover crops, Mark noticed that there was less erosion after a rainfall where he had cover crops planted.

As an unexpected bonus, Mark found a covey of quail on his farm for the first time in 8 years.Cover crops create a place for quail to raise their young.

I asked Mark what the highlight of the champions program was for him and he told me a story about some farmers who approached him after a meeting where he spoke about using cover crops. They said they had been thinking about growing cover crops for a long time, and listening to you today finally got us motivated to do something.” Kent Solberg, Minnesota

Kent runs a rotational-grazing dairy and pastured hog farm in central Minnesota. Adding cover crops to his operation provides feed for livestock and builds soil health.

When Kent first purchased the farm, the soils were coarse and worn out. During drought time, the pastures would dry up and the price of irrigation was too high to make a profit. Kent started looking for alternatives and started the farm on a path to improve soil health. He takes some pasture out of production and plants it to a complex cover crop mix to boost soil microbe activity. This improves the soil for the next crop or pasture. Kent uses cover crops for mid-summer and fall forage. “If I could change anything, it would be that I wish I had started sooner. Every year I use covers, I wish I had done more.”

Kent says that being a part of the champions program has created an opportunity to bring the message of soil health to other producers.

“If not for the program, I don’t think I would have been able to speak to as many people as I have in the past 6-8 months. It has also helped build a network I can tap into to help multiply the adoption of cover crops,” Solberg said.


Photo courtesy of Kent Solberg

Eventually, I hope to tell more stories about the cover crop champions on this blog, but in the meantime, feel free to check out this portfolio of their inaugural year, or read more about NWF’s work on cover crops.

Why Do We Need Healthy Rivers?

By Laura Craig

American Rivers

Clean, healthy rivers are the lifeblood of our communities and are vital to our health, safety, and quality of life. Most Americans live within a mile of a river or stream, and all of our drinking water comes directly or indirectly from rivers and streams.

By protecting and restoring rivers, we are protecting clean drinking water, creating jobs and recreation opportunities that benefit our economy, and revitalizing our natural heritage for future generations.

Healthy Rivers Give Us Clean Drinking Water

More than 60 percent of Americans’ drinking water comes from rivers and streamsA healthy river and surrounding forests can act as a natural water filter, reducing the need to treat the water with chemicals or expensive filtration systems.

Healthy Rivers are Good for the Economy

Going fishing may feel like taking the day off, but its overall economic impact in the U.S. is estimated at $116 billionAnd consider the fact that more people fish in the United States than go to Disneyworld. When Americans participate in outdoor activities, they aren’t just having fun and staying fit, they’re also pumping billions of dollars into the economy – in industries including manufacturing, leisure and hospitality, transportation, and wholesale and retail trade.

Healthy Rivers Are Home to Fish and Wildlife

America’s rivers support a wide variety of wildlife and fish, and are especially important during times of breeding and migration. In dry areas, particularly in the western U.S., rivers and streams are crucial to the well-being of wildlife. From kingfishers to crawdads, otters to black bears, eagles to trout, whatever creature you’re looking for, chances are you’ll find it along the river.

Healthy Rivers Are Fun!

Beyond all the other services and benefits healthy rivers can provide, they are just plain fun. Rivers and streams offer endless recreation opportunities, including swimming, fishing, boating, hiking, and wildlife-watching. Whether you need exhilaration, solitude, a much-needed break from the daily grind or just a pleasant place for a family float or picnic, there’s a river out there, beckoning you to come out and play.

Rivers Are Our Heritage

From the homelands of Native Americans to our earliest settlements, explorer routes, and battlefields, to the evolution of music, literature, and art – our nation’s culture and heritage is written in the currents of our rivers. Think of Mark Twain on the Mississippi, or Lewis and Clark following the Missouri and Columbia rivers as they traveled west. Our rivers connect us to the past, and the future.