Signs of decline in health of Puget Sound organisms

By Associated Press

SEATTLE — Despite improvements in the most industrialized and populated areas of the Puget Sound, a new report issued Tuesday by the Washington Department of Ecology shows the overall health of the state’s broadest waterway is declining in at least one way.

Sediment health in the central sound — from just south of Whidbey Island to the Tacoma Narrows — has deteriorated over the past decade, according to the report, which has some scientists who closely monitor the watershed wondering what they’ve been missing.

The study of sediment pulled from the bottom of the sound in 2008 and 2009 found a decline in sediment-dwelling life — known as benthic invertebrates — in 28 percent of the region, compared with 7 percent of the region in results from 1998 and 1999.

The results were surprising in contrast with other recent health checkups for the Puget Sound, which have shown improvements such as a decrease in toxic chemicals. Scientists also have found a decrease in concentrations of lead, mercury, silver, tin and other toxics in the central sound sediment.

It is possible scientists have not been looking deep enough or broad enough for other environmental problems, said Rob Duff, manager of the Ecology Department’s environmental assessment program.

“We don’t measure everything. We measure dozens and dozens of chemicals we are concerned about,” Duff said, adding, “There are thousands and thousands of chemicals in commerce today.”

Emerging contaminants such as pharmaceuticals and personal care products may be responsible for the decline in the number and variety of small creatures within the Puget Sound’s sediment, Duff said, but there are other possible causes.

The decline in the number and variety of small creatures in the sediment also result from natural influences, such as the normal population cycles of sediment-dwelling organisms, or sediment movement and changes in dissolved oxygen, pH and ammonia levels in the water above the sediments.

“One report only tells you a piece of the puzzle,” cautioned Jan Newton, an oceanographer from the University of Washington who was not involved in this Ecology Department study.

The health of Puget Sound is so multi-faceted — from toxics to habitat to climate change — it’s difficult to talk about its overall health, she said, adding, “definitely, there’s reason for concern.”

Meanwhile, the health of Elliott Bay in Seattle and Commencement Bay in Tacoma has been shown signs of improving health, with decreases in chemicals found and water chemistry overall.

That suggests years of port cleanup and storm water management seem to be working, said Maggie Dutch, lead scientist for the sediment monitoring program.

But the contrasting results also suggest the need for more research, she added.

“We’re thinking that there are other things happening,” Dutch said. “It could be things that we also have an influence on.”

This kind of report shows the importance of continuing to monitor the sound as a tool for figuring out what else needs to be done to clean up the water, Ken Dzinbal, who represents the Puget Sound Partnership on the monitoring program.

“We’ve done a pretty good job of addressing big issues like storm water,” he said. “There still might be something else out there that we haven’t addressed.”

— The Associated Press

Tribes monitor Puget Sound for toxins

Nisqually natural resources technician Jimsan Dunstan samples water at Johnson Point in Olympia.
Nisqually natural resources technician Jimsan Dunstan samples water at Johnson Point in Olympia.

– Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission

The Jamestown S’Klallam, Nisqually and Stillaguamish tribes are participating in the SoundToxins monitoring program to provide early warning of harmful algal blooms (HAB) and outbreaks of bacteria that could sicken humans.

“We want to make sure shellfish are safe to consume, not just for tribal members, but for all seafood consumers,” said Sue Shotwell, shellfish farm manager for the Nisqually Tribe.

During the shellfish growing season from March to October, tribal natural resources staff sample seawater weekly at designated sites. Additional sites across Puget Sound are monitored for toxin-producing algae by various citizen beach watchers, shellfish farmers, educational institutions and state government agencies. The monitoring results are posted in an online database.

The SoundToxins program helps narrow down the places where shellfish should be sampled for toxins, which is more expensive and time-consuming than testing the water.

“Just because we find algae that produce toxins doesn’t necessarily mean there are toxins in the seafood, but it could mean there will be soon,” said Stillaguamish marine and shellfish biologist Franchesca Perez. “If high numbers of an HAB species are found, then a sample of the water is sent to SoundToxins for further analysis, and appropriate parties are contacted to protect consumers and growers. We also look for Heterosigma, a flagellated plankton that causes fish kills.”

The Stillaguamish Tribe is sampling Kayak Point in Port Susan. Nisqually is monitoring the water at Johnson Point in Olympia, and the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe is taking its samples from the dock at Sequim Bay State Park, a popular shellfish harvesting site.

“Sequim Bay has had a number of harmful algal blooms historically,” said Neil Harrington, Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe environmental biologist. “When we see the phytoplankton cells increase in the water column, we know to start increasing shellfish sampling for toxins.”

All three types of plankton that cause HABs in Puget Sound have been measured at toxic levels in Sequim Bay.

“The SoundToxins program aims to provide sufficient warning of HAB and Vibrio events to enable early or selective harvesting of seafood, thereby minimizing risks to human health and reducing economic losses to Puget Sound fisheries,” said Sound Toxins program director Vera Trainer of NOAA’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center.

SoundToxins is managed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Northwest Science Center, Washington Sea Grant and the Washington Department of Health.

Being Frank: Don’t let First Salmon become Last Salmon

By Billy Frank, Jr, Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission Chairman

Winter snows are melting up in the mountains and soon the only white stuff we’ll see floating in the air will be cottonwood fluff, a sign that the salmon are beginning to return and a reminder that it is time to celebrate the fish that sustains us as a people.

In gatherings large and small, tribes throughout western Washington will celebrate First Salmon ceremonies this spring and summer to welcome home the salmon.

It is an honor for a tribal fisherman to be asked to harvest the First Salmon, a scout for the Salmon People who live in a village under the sea. With drumming and singing the First Salmon is welcomed and shared. The First Salmon’s bones are then returned to the water to allow his spirit to go home. If the First Salmon was shown proper respect, he will tell the Salmon People how well he was treated, and lead them back to the tribe’s fishing area for harvest.

The return of the salmon means tribal fishermen will be returning to the water as well. As part of the First Salmon Ceremony, many tribes also include a Blessing of the Fleet for protection of tribal fishermen and their boats.

But it is getting harder every year to put our tribal fishermen on the water. While careful harvest management by the tribal and state co-managers is making a strong contribution to the recovery of wild salmon, the keys to rebuilding those runs have always been to protect and restore salmon habitat.

Yet day after day we see salmon habitat being lost and damaged, and little being done to stop or fix it. Our declining salmon populations and resulting lost fishing opportunity are mirrors that reflect the increasingly shrinking quality and quantity of salmon habitat in our region. Conservative fisheries are effective only when they go hand-in-hand with equally strong efforts to protect and restore salmon habitat.

The lack of action on protecting and restoring habitat has gotten to the point that we can no longer make up for declining salmon runs simply by reducing harvest. Those days are gone. Even if we stopped all salmon fishing everywhere in western Washington, most weak wild salmon stocks would still never recover. There simply isn’t enough good quality habitat to support them.

But despite everything that’s thrown against them – dams, pollution, predators and much more – the salmon never stop trying to make it home. We can’t stop either. We all need to work harder to make sure the salmon has a good home when he returns.

We don’t want to ever find ourselves contemplating a Last Salmon Ceremony.

Populations plummet for frogs, toads, salamanders

Source: The Washington Post

Frogs, toads and salamanders continue to vanish from the American landscape at an alarming pace, with seven species – including Colorado’s boreal toad and Nevada’s yellow-legged frog – facing 50 percent drops in their numbers within seven years if the current rate of decline continues, according to new government research.

The U.S. Geological Survey study, released Wednesday, is the first to document how quickly amphibians are disappearing, as well as how low the populations of the threatened species could go, given current trends.

The exact reasons for the decline in amphibians, first noticed decades ago, remain unclear. But scientists believe several factors, including disease, an explosion of invasive species, climate change and pesticide use are contributing.

The study said the populations of seven species of threatened frogs, including the boreal toad and the yellow-legged frog, are decreasing at a rate of 11.6 percent a year.

More than 40 species of frogs, such as the Fowler’s toad and spring peepers, are declining at a rate of 2.7 percent. If that pace keeps up, their populations will be halved in 27 years, the study said.

“We knew they were declining and we didn’t know how fast,” said Michael J. Adams, a research ecologist for USGS and the lead author of the study, Trends in Amphibian Occupancy in the United States, published in the journal PLOS ONE. “It’s a loss of biodiversity. You lose them and you can’t get them back. That seems like a problem.”

The disappearance of amphibians is a global phenomenon. But in the United States, it adds to a disturbing trend of mass vanishings that include honeybees and numerous species of bats along Atlantic states and the Midwest.

Bees, which also are disappearing in Europe, serve nature and farmers by pollinating a wide range of plants and food crops. Bats, which have died by the millions from a disease called white nose syndrome, also are pollinators but, along with amphibians, eat many metric tons of insects each year, allowing farmers to cut back on insecticides.

Frogs and their like are much more than slimy animals that come alive in the dark and croak; they are deeply woven into the lives of humans. The offspring of frogs and toads, tadpoles, are the first organisms children watch in school as the creatures develop arms and legs. Adult amphibians are routinely dissected by many of those same children as they go through school.

Scientists have produced pharmaceutical drugs from chemicals found in the skin of frogs and toads, and large numbers of amphibians are collected for medical research.

For the USGS study, researchers pored over data collected at 34 watery and swampy areas from Sierra Nevada mountains to Louisiana and Florida over nine years. They traveled to sites and counted clusters of nearly 50 amphibian species, marking their decline year after year for nearly a decade.

Researchers carried a list of species – some thought to be faring well, others to be strugglng – compiled by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, which seeks solutions to environmental challenges. The data were studied by USGS’ Amphibian Research and Monitoring Initiative.

The loss of amphibians is occurring even in areas where animals are protected, in national parks and wildlife refuges, the study said.

The disappearance of frogs, toads and salamanders first got attention in 1989 when “my colleagues and I began reporting that in familiar amphibian haunts the numbers of frogs and salamanders were declining,” biologist James Collins wrote in an article for Natural History Magazine nine years ago.

“By the mid-1990s we were hearing reports that species were going extinct in only a few years,” he wrote. So “the search for the answer to our question – why are they gone? – was becoming paramount.”

It was hard to answer the question at the time “because there was very little monitoring going on,” said Adams, the author of the new study. “We were trying to convince ourselves there was really something going on with amphibians that wasn’t happening with other species, the disappearance of frogs around the world.”

The new research is the first to document the steepness of the decline. But others sought to answer why years ago.

A study of Minnesota’s northern leopard frog fingered farm chemicals as a contributor to its decline, according to the journal Nature. After studying more than 200 factors that led to infection, two stood out, a synopsis of the report said, an herbicide called atrazine and phosphate, a fertilizer.

Whatever the reason, the declines have led at least one activist group to call for an end to another practice that contributes to the mortality of frogs: dissections. Save the Frogs set an unlikely goal to get dissections out of every school by 2014.

“They are contributing to the depletion of wild frog populations and the spread of harmful invasive species and infectious diseases,” the group says.

Environmental coalition wants single coal port study

By Bill Sheets, The Herald

A coalition of environmental groups is asking the federal government to step in and combine the environmental studies for three different coal export terminal proposals into one.

In addition to the Gateway Pacific terminal proposed for Cherry Point near Bellingham, export terminals also are proposed for Longview in southwest Washington and Boardman, Ore., on the Columbia River.

Earthjustice, a Seattle environmental law firm, sent a letter on Wednesday to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers offices in Seattle and Portland.

The letter was signed by 11 environmental groups, including Climate Solutions, National Wildlife Federation, the Sierra Club and the Washington Environmental Council.

The Alliance for Northwest Jobs and Exports, a Seattle-based group of business organizations and others formed to support the export terminals, issued a counterstatement to the environmental groups’ request Wednesday.

“This is a stall tactic, pure and simple,” said Lauri Hennessey, a spokeswoman for the Alliance for Northwest Jobs and Exports.

“We continue to support the (environmental study) process as it exists today.”

Meanwhile, last week, the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians, a coalition of tribes in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Northern California, issued a joint resolution opposing fossil fuel exports.

“We will not allow our treaty and rights, which depend on natural and renewable resources, to be demolished by shortsighted and ultimately detrimental investments,” said Tulalip Tribal Chairman Mel Sheldon, Jr., who is a vice chairman for the tribal coalition, in a written statement.

The environmental groups’ letter points out that while the terminals will be located only in those three towns, the trains will be carrying coal from Montana and Wyoming across Idaho and Washington state.

The Gateway Pacific terminal, proposed by SSA Marine of Seattle, would serve as a place to send coal, grain, potash and scrap wood for biofuels to Asia. Trains would bring coal from Montana and Wyoming across Washington state to Seattle and north through Snohomish County to Bellingham.

The terminal is expected to generate up to 18 more train trips through Snohomish County per day — nine full and nine empty.

Proponents, including U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Wash., point to job creation. Opponents say the plan could mean long traffic delays at railroad crossings and pollution from coal dust.

More than 14,000 people registered comments on the Gateway Pacific plan last fall and winter. The comments are being used to determine the environmental issues to be studied. The process is expected to take at least a couple of more years.

Meetings were not held in Montana or Idaho despite the fact that trains will be rolling through those states, the groups point out.

The petition asks for the area-wide study to include the effects of increased mining in Wyoming and Montana; increased rail traffic throughout Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Washington, and Oregon; and the effect of coal exports on domestic energy security and pricing. The petition also asks for hearings to be held around the region.

On the positive side, the plan is projected to create 1,200 long-term positions and 4,400 temporary, construction related jobs, according to SSA Marine.

No hearings have been held yet for the Longview terminal, said Larry Altose, a spokesman for the state Department of Ecology. The Army Corps of Engineers has yet to require a study for the terminal in Oregon, according to Power Past Coal.

Common aspects of the two terminals in Washington state may be studied together as it stands now, he said. The ecology department and Army Corps of Engineers are working on both the Bellingham and Longview proposals, with help from Whatcom and Cowlitz counties, respectively.

For instance, if train traffic from the Longview terminal has a ripple effect on train traffic north of Seattle, or vice versa, then it may be included in both studies, Altose said. The same goes for any other issues, such as coal dust, that may be addressed in the studies, he said.

Washington’s ecology department, of course, does not have jurisdiction in Oregon.

Therefore “the unified approach is something that would involve the federal government,” he said.

A spokeswoman for the Army Corps of Engineers office in Seattle could not be reached for comment.

Sovereign Nations Walk Out of Meeting With U.S. State Department Unanimously Rejecting Keystone XL Pipeline

Source: Huffington Post

The State Department, still with “egg on its face” from its statement that Keystone XL would have little impact on climate change, sunk a little lower today as the most respected elders, and chiefs of 10 sovereign nations turned their backs on State Department representatives and walked out during a meeting. The meeting, which was a failed attempt at a “nation to nation” tribal consultation concerning the Keystone XL Pipeline neglected to address any legitimate concerns being raised by First Nations Leaders (or leading scientific experts for that matter).

Climate Science Watch, The EPA and most people with common sense rebuked the State Department’s initial report and today First Nations sent a very clear message to President Obama and the world concerning the future fate of their land regarding Keystone XL.

Vice president for conservation policy at the National Wildlife Federation Jim Lyon said of the department’s original analysis that it “fails in its review of climate impacts, threats to endangered wildlife like whooping cranes and woodland caribou, and the concerns of tribal communities.” Today tribal nations added probably the most critical danger of the pipeline which is to the water. Their statement is below:

On this historic day of May 16, 2013, ten sovereign Indigenous nations maintain that the proposed TransCanada/Keystone XL pipeline does not serve the national interest and in fact would be detrimental not only to the collected sovereigns but all future generations on planet earth. This morning the following sovereigns informed the Department of State Tribal Consultation effort at the Hilton Garden Inn in Rapid City, SD, that the gathering was not recognized as a valid consultation on a “nation to nation” level:Southern Ponca
Pawnee Nation
Nez Perce Nation

And the following Oceti Sakowin (Seven Council Fires People):

Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate
Ihanktonwan Dakota (Yankton Sioux)
Rosebud Sioux Tribe
Oglala Sioux Tribe
Standing Rock Tribe
Lower Brule Sioux Tribe
Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe
Crow Creek Sioux Tribe

The Great Plains Tribal Chairmans Association supports this position, which is in solidarity with elected leaders, Treaty Councils and the grassroots community, and is guided by spiritual leaders. On Saturday, May 18, the Sacred Pipe Bundle of the Oceti Sakowin will be brought out to pray with the people to stop the KXL pipeline, and other tribal nation prayer circles will gather to do the same.

Pursuant to Executive Order 13175, the above sovereigns directed the DOS to invite President Obama to engage in “true Nation to Nation” consultation with them at the nearest date, at a designated location to be communicated by each of the above sovereigns. After delivering that message, the large contingent of tribal people walked out of the DOS meeting and asked the other tribal people present to support this effort and to leave the meeting. Eventually all remaining tribal representatives and Tribal Historic Preservation Officers left the meeting at the direct urging of the grassroots organization Owe Aku. Owe Aku, Moccasins on the Ground, and Protect the Sacred are preparing communities to resist the Keystone XL pipeline through Keystone Blockade Training.

This unprecedented unity of tribes against the desecration of Ina Maka (Mother Earth) was motivated by the signing on January 25, 2013, of the historic International Treaty to Protect the Sacred Against the Tar Sands. Signatories were the Pawnee Nation, the Ponca Nation, the Ihanktonwan Dakota and the Oglala Lakota. Since then ten First Nations Chiefs in Canada have signed the Treaty to protect themselves against tar sands development in Canada.

The above sovereigns notify President Obama to consult with each of them because of the following:

The nations have had no direct role in identifying and evaluating cultural resources.

The nations question the status of the programmatic agreement and how it may or may not be amended.

The nations are deeply concerned about potential pipeline impacts on natural resources, especially our water: potential spills and leaks, groundwater and surface water contamination.

The nations have no desire to contribute to climate change, to which the pipeline will directly contribute.

The nations recognize that the pipeline will increase environmental injustice, disproportionately impacting native communities.

The nations deplore the environmental impacts of tar sands mining being endured by tribes in Canada. The pipeline would service the tar sands extractive industry.

The nations insist that their treaty rights be respected⎯the pipeline would violate them.

The nations support an energy policy that promotes renewables and efficiency instead of one that features fossil fuels.

The nations regard the consultation process as flawed in favor of corporate interests.
The sovereigns of these nations contend that it is not in America’s interest to facilitate and contribute to environmental devastation on the scale caused by the extraction of tar sands in Canada. America would be better served by a comprehensive program to reduce its reliance on oil, and to invest in the development and deployment of sustainable energy technologies, such as electric vehicles that are charged using solar and wind power.

If the Keystone XL pipeline is allowed to be built, TransCanada, a Canadian corporation, would be occupying sacred treaty lands as reserved in the 1851 and 1868 Fort Laramie Treaties. It will be stopped by unified resistance.


To sanctify their solidarity with The Lubicon Lake First Nation of Canada, who are the traditional stewards of the land that 70% of the tar sands oil sit on, along with tribes across Canada and The United States, Chief Arvol Lookinghorse has called for a day of prayer everywhere on May 18, 2013. Chief Lookinghorse, The 19th Generation Keeper of The Sacred White Buffalo Bundle, has stated,

“I am asking ‘All Nations, All Faiths, One Prayer’ to help us during this time of this gathering by praying with us on this day wherever you are upon Mother Earth. We need to stop the desecration that is hurting Mother Earth and the communities. These recent spills of oil are affecting the blood of Mother Earth; Mni wic’oni (water of life).”

Gatherings are being planned all over the world in solidarity during the weekend including one outside the UN at Isaiah’s Wall in NYC on, May 17th.

We all know that we are living in unprecedented times. We just surpassed 400ppm CO2 in the atmosphere for the first time in 10 million years, the planet is warming and we humans must bear the responsibility of our actions and their effects on the environment. What we do, and what we don’t do will effect the generations to follow. A better world is possible.

Supreme Court won’t take up Alaskan tribe’s suit against Exxon Mobil

By Jeremy P. Jacobs, E&E, ClimateWire

The Supreme Court yesterday declined to review a large climate change lawsuit brought by a Native Alaskan village against major energy producers.

The Native Village of Kivalina had asked the justices to take up a 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling last September that dismissed its lawsuit against Exxon Mobil Corp. and other producers.

Villagers had claimed that the companies’ operations were contributing to global warming, which in turn was eroding their land off the northwest coast of Alaska, about 70 miles north of the Arctic Circle.

Specifically, the villagers were seeking damages from the companies. The San Francisco-based 9th Circuit, however, ruled that the Clean Air Act and U.S. EPA regulations have jurisdiction over climate change issues.

The Village of Kivalina is a self-governing, federally recognized tribe of about 400 Inupiat Native Alaskans who live on a 6-mile barrier reef off the coast of Alaska.

In order to withstand winter storms and large waves, the village relies on sea ice that binds to its coastline. In recent years, villagers charged that the ice is forming later and melting sooner, leaving them exposed.

Further, the reef itself is eroding, and, in court documents, the village claimed its existence is deeply threatened.

The villagers attributed the change to global warming and pointed at greenhouse gases from energy production as the culprit. They sought damages under a common law nuisance claim.

Lower courts have ruled against the village on multiple occasions. A district court tossed out the case because the village couldn’t concretely detail how it had been harmed by the conduct of the companies.

April surge in snow has small impact: drought continues in much of the West

USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service

WASHINGTON, May 13, 2013 – May measurements confirm April forecasts: NRCS hydrologists predict reduced spring and summer water supply for much of the West.

April saw a surge in snow in many places but didn’t make up the shortfall during previous months.

“For much of the West, April was wetter than January, February and March combined,” said NRCS Meteorologist Jan Curtis. “But it was too little, too late.”

NRCS hydrologists use May streamflow forecasts to confirm and refine the April forecasts. Though recent snow made small improvements in some areas, most changes are insignificant.

“California, southern and eastern Oregon, Nevada, southern Utah, southern Colorado and especially New Mexico will experience major water shortages due to sustained drought conditions and low reservoir storage,” says NRCS Hydrologist Tom Perkins.

“I haven’t seen it this bad in New Mexico since I started forecasting for the Snow Survey Program in 1983,” he added.

As of May 1, USDA’s Secretary Tom Vilsack designated many counties in Western states as eligible for USDA drought assistance.

Water resource managers face difficult decisions because of this shortage. Western states should prepare for potentially increased vulnerability to forest and rangeland fires and mandatory water restrictions. In addition, wildlife that depends on surface water is going to suffer.

There are a few exceptions to the dry forecasts. The North Cascades and the headwaters of the Missouri and Columbia Rivers are near normal.

“For the rest of the West, there is no silver lining,” Perkins said. “I think it’s going to be a long, hot, dry summer.”

According to Curtis, much of the snowmelt won’t reach the streams.

“The soil in the southern half of the West is like a dry sponge that will absorb and hold water as it melts from the snowpacks. Only when the soil is sufficiently saturated will it allow water to flow to the streams,” he said.

NRCS’ National Water and Climate Center monitors soil moisture with its SNOw TELemetry (SNOTEL) and Soil Climate Analysis Network (SCAN) networks. These sensors gather soil data that helps NRCS better monitor drought development.

“Although NRCS’ streamflow forecasts do not predict drought, they provide valuable information about future water supply in states where snowmelt accounts for the majority of seasonal runoff,” said Perkins.

In addition to precipitation, streamflow in the West consists largely of accumulated mountain snow that melts and flows into streams as temperatures warm into spring and summer.

The May forecast is the fifth of six monthly forecasts. The forecast compares the current level of water content in snowpack in the 13 Western states with historical data to help the region’s farmers, ranchers, water managers, communities and other stakeholders make informed decisions about water use and future availability.

NRCS scientists analyze the snowfall, air temperature, soil moisture and other measurements taken from remote climate sites to develop the water supply forecasts.

“USDA streamflow forecasts play a vital role in the livelihood of many Americans,” said Jason Weller, NRCS acting chief. “With much of this region greatly affected by drought, our experts will continue to monitor snowpack data and ensure that NRCS is ready to help landowners plan and prepare for water supply conditions.”

Since 1935, NRCS has conducted snow surveys and issued regular water supply forecasts. NRCS installs, operates and maintains its extensive, automated SNOTEL system to collect snowpack and related climatic data in the Western United States and Alaska.

View May’s Snow Survey Water Supply Forecasts map or view information by state.

Other resources on drought include the U.S. Drought Monitor and U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook map, which forecast drought conditions through March 31. For information on USDA’s drought efforts, visit And to learn more about how NRCS is helping private landowners deal with drought, visit the NRCS site.
USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service helps America’s farmers and ranchers conserve the Nation’s soil, water, air and other natural resources. All programs are voluntary and offer science-based solutions that benefit both the landowner and the environment.
Follow NRCS on Twitter. Check out other conservation-related stories on USDA Blog. Watch videos on NRCS’ YouTube channel.

USDA has made a concerted effort to deliver results for the American people, even as USDA implements sequestration – the across-the-board budget reductions mandated under terms of the Budget Control Act. USDA has already undertaken historic efforts since 2009 to save more than $828 million in taxpayer funds through targeted, common-sense budget reductions. These reductions have put USDA in a better position to carry out its mission, while implementing sequester budget reductions in a fair manner that causes as little disruption as possible.