Tuesday, March 31, 2015

This is how SWCD employees feel about our careers, too

The Greatest Good
Written by Tom Tidwell, Chief, U.S.D.A. Forest Service
I was asked recently what the Forest Service mission meant to me. There are three words that always come to mind any time I think about what we do … the greatest good.

Founder of the Forest Service, Gifford Pinchot said that where conflicting interests must be reconciled, the question shall always be answered from the standpoint of the greatest good of the greatest number in the long run.

Our mission is varied and complex, but the concept of doing our best for the largest amount of people is much simpler. We will always strive to do the greatest amount of good for the greatest number of people.

This month we put an emphasis on conserving open space.  Open space provides vital ecosystem services and benefits to this nation. But every day we lose more and more of our forests, grasslands, wetlands and urban greenspaces. This affects everything from the ability to deliver clean air and water to outdoor recreation.

The way we will continue to conserve open space is by: 1) Protecting the most ecologically and socially important lands; 2) Conserving working lands as sustainable forests and grasslands; 3) Expanding and connecting open spaces in cities, suburbs, and towns; and 4) Reducing the potential ecological impacts and risks of development.

But none of this would be possible without the dedicated men and women working everyday across the Forest Service.

I started working for the forest service 38 years ago because I had a desire to be a part of conservation efforts for our nation’s forests and because I grew up loving the outdoors. I had an opportunity to work where I play – to have a career doing what I love. Over nearly four decades, I have seen the Forest Service mission in action – at the forest-level, at the district, and now as the chief. Throughout that time I have continuously seen dedicated people working to conserve open space. I have met countless individuals who love their jobs and who are passionate about sustaining the health, diversity, and productivity of the nation’s forests and grasslands.

It is through their work that we can continue to achieve our mission. It is through their work that we can continue to do the greatest good. We are responsible for 193 million acres of national forests and grasslands. From rangers at the forests to the brave men and women fighting wildfires when called upon to the individuals doing ground-breaking work at our research stations and those performing vital business operations – every one of these individuals is working in a concerted effort to sustain that land, to live our mission, and to do the greatest good.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Feral Hog Program

Dover, Ohio - At the April 1 7:00 PM meeting of the East Central Ohio Forestry Association (ECOFA), Craig Hicks, a Wildlife Disease Biologist/Ohio Feral Swine Coordinator for USDA Wildlife Services will be speaking on Feral Swine.  They arrived primarily through domestic escape , escapes from hunting preserves and intentional release which is illegal.
ECOFA is an organization of persons interested in improving their woodlands and in forestry-related topics.  The public is cordially invited to attend the free meetings which are held monthly at the Dover Library, 525 North Walnut St. Dover, Ohio

Friday, March 27, 2015

Rural Action invites community to watershed planning meetings

Rural Action invites community to watershed planning meetings

The Plains, Ohio - Rural Action, a community based organization, is working to better understand community water resource needs as part of a regional watershed planning initiative. A watershed is an area of land in which all the water drains to the same low point. Everyone lives in a watershed. The major watersheds in Ohio are the Lake Erie Watershed and Ohio River Watershed. Rural Action's work is focused on communities within the Ohio River system.

Community members are invited to participate in the planning process by sharing water interests, needs, and concerns in their communities. Meetings will begin with an overview of the planning process and conclude with a question and answer session with watershed professionals. All participants will have the chance to submit comments and refreshments will be served.

All interested community members, local government officials, and representatives from soil and water districts are encouraged to attend. Meetings will be held at many locations across the Ohio River Watershed. Locally, a meeting will be held on April 13th at 6 pm at the Cambridge Crossroads Library at 63500 Byesville Rd, Cambridge, OH 43725

Rural Action is a membership based organization working to build sustainable local economies in Appalachian Ohio. Rural Action has been involved in watershed restoration work since 1994, historically in the Monday Creek, Sunday Creek, Federal Creek, Huff Run and Mud Run watersheds. For more information about Rural Action's work, visit www.ruralaction.org. For more information about the regional meetings and planning process, contact Michelle Shively at (740) 767-2225 or michelle@sundaycreek.org.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Unanimous House, Senate Send Manure Bill To Governor's Desk

The House and Senate on Wednesday finished up work on the legislature's most significant proposal to date aimed at starving off toxic algae that has increasingly plagued Lake Erie in recent years.  The bill (SB 1*) cleared the lower chamber without opposition before the Senate unanimously concurred with the House's revisions, forwarding the measure on to Gov. John Kasich to sign into law.

Department of Natural Resources Director Jim Zehringer said the legislation includes many of the administration's proposals aimed at protecting the Lake Erie watershed.  "Now that Ohio has put into place new regulations and training on the proper application of nutrients to reduce runoff, these latest reforms will help us strengthen our efforts to protect water quality by keeping fertilizers and manure off snow, frozen and saturated ground, working with farmers who need assistance, and giving us the ability to get bad actors into compliance. Ohio's fight against algae isn't over, but these reforms will certainly help," he said in a statement.

A central feature of the bill - and the one that provoked lengthy deliberations between the House, Senate, administration and agricultural groups - is a proposal to regulate the application of livestock manure on farm fields.  The bill passed the House without opposition and after minimal debate.

Agriculture Committee Chairman Rep. Brian Hill (R-Zanesville-represents Guernsey County) pointed to a broad base of support that includes the major industry groups as well as environmental interests.  The farming groups' sign-off show that agriculture "wants to be part of the solution" to the algae problem the bill addresses in several ways, such as manure regulations, future dredging limits and a three-year review of its effectiveness, he said.  Mr. Hill lauded the extensive negotiations over matters such as farmers' compliance that resulted in a solid compromise package.

Rep. Jim Buchy (R-Greenville), sponsor of the House companion measure called the measure a first "right step to reduce the impact of nutrient loading" that is occurring in Lake Erie, mainly through phosphorus flowing from the Detroit and Maumee rivers.  "This is a frontal assault from all of us," he said, referring to U.S. farmers as the top environmental stewards in the world because they understand the importance of soil, water than air to their livelihoods.

Rep. John Patterson (D-Jefferson) also called the bill a reasonable compromise, recalling some "agonizing moments" over enforcement and other details.  "To think that the Ohio Environmental Council and the Ohio Republican Party are on the same page is remarkable," he said.
Prior to the Senate's concurrence vote, joint sponsor Sen. Randy Gardner (R-Bowling Green) said the House's revisions produced "a stronger, more meaningful bill."

Earlier in the day, House and Senate leaders held a news conference to publicize the bill and applaud each other's hard work on reaching what Senate President Keith Faber (R-Celina) said was one of the most difficult issues the legislature has tackled in years.  "The benefits of having a clean Lake Erie are certainly worth the fight and something we will continue to push forward on," he said, alluding to a message that was repeated throughout the event - that more measure is only one step in the legislature's effort to address the toxic algae problem.

Sen. Faber also said the agriculture community is doing its part and now other industries need to contribute to the solution.  "As somebody who represents the largest agricultural district in the state, we continue to be very concerned to make sure that agriculture is viable, but viability should not be confused with a lack of environmental stewardship. And excessive use of chemical fertilizers or organic fertilizers is unacceptable. And this bill will make meaningful changes into that process," he said.  While restrictions on spreading livestock manure have gotten the most attention, Sen. Gardner said agricultural regulations comprise only two out of six major components of the bill.

In addition to the ban on applying fertilizer and manure to frozen and saturated soil, the revised bill includes a provision that would crack down on the "so-called manure loophole," he said, pointing to an amendment that would require anyone spreading waste transferred from a concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) to follow the same regulations.

Sen. Gardner said the four other non-agricultural parts of the legislation would:

  • Restrict the disposal of dredging material in open Lake Erie by 2020.
  • Require wastewater treatment plants to monitor phosphorus discharge.
  • Create a new coordinator of harmful algal bloom management and response position to help organize local response efforts.
  • Update the Healthy Lake Erie Fund to advance soil testing, tributary testing, animal waste abatement initiatives and other conservation measures for farmers.

Primary co-sponsor Sen. Bob Peterson (R-Sabina) said the final version emerged from the House with the most stringent combination of regulations to combat toxic algae.  "This is the toughest version of any of the bills we've seen," he said.

Nonetheless, lawmakers say it's impossible to know how much of an impact the bill will actually have on Ohio's toxic algal blooms.  Sen. Gardner said there were too many variables, like the weather in future years, to be able to quantify how much the proposal will reduce phosphorus runoff flowing into Lake Erie.  "I know people are looking for precise answers as to what exactly will happen with this legislation. We know it's another step in the right direction, we know its meaningful, but until you tell me what the temperatures are, what the wind direction is, what the rainfall events are, it's just impossible to know what kind of impact this might have on the lake," he said.

Sen. Faber called the bill a "major component" in addressing the issue.  "But in the end, its a multifaceted problem, and until we can get our friends in Indiana and Michigan and Canada to also address this is some of the same ways, we're going to continue to have issues," he said.
Speaker Cliff Rosenberger (R-Clarksville) noted that the Kasich administration is already discussing a broader algae-fighting approach with leaders in other states.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Prepare to do More for Water Quality

A heavy fog blanketed much of Ohio one early March morning as the long winter freeze was just starting to give way to the warmer temperatures of the coming spring. A thin top layer of the soil had thawed, but a deep freeze remained below. This, combined with persistent rains and a significant snowmelt, set the stage for nutrient and sediment loss from farm fields.

Read rest of article HERE

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Forest Farming Ramps

by Kate MacFarland, National Agroforestry Center, U.S. Forest Service
Ramps, these tasty spring ephemerals with the scientific name Allium tricoccum, are generally called ramps in the south and wild leeks in more northern areas. They are native to the hardwood forests of eastern North America.

In many areas, ramps are viewed as a sign of the coming of spring and people flock to the forests to “dig a mess of ramps.” Many communities hold ramp festivals. When in season, local restaurants, roadside vegetable stands, and other markets sell ramps to residents and tourists. In recent years, the interest in these spring delicacies has increased to the point that high-end restaurants in cities across the nation are now offering ramps on their menus.

Much of the demand for ramps is being met through wild harvesting. All of these activities have increased concern for the sustainability of these forest plants due to the potential for over-harvesting.

The increasing popularity of this woodland crop has created opportunities for landowners to also “farm” ramps in their woodlots. Forest farming ramps not only gives landowners an additional income source, but may also help alleviate pressure on wild populations.

A recent Agroforestry Note produced by the USDA National Agroforestry Center, in partnership with the Forest Service Southern Research Station, details the management and production of ramps in a forest farming setting. It describes site selection, site preparation and planting, maintenance and care, harvesting and processing, and marketing and economics.  Follow this LINK to the entire article.

Marilyn Wyman, the Issue Lead in Natural Resources and the Environment for Cornell Cooperative Extension in Columbia and Green Counties, New York and the Agroforestry Resource Center, said, “Connecting audiences with information in the Forest Farming Ramps publication provides them a crucial link to a culturally interesting, delicious and potentially lucrative plant. This information may be especially interesting to woodland owners who seek to cultivate food and farming enterprises on their properties.” With this publication, the USDA National Agroforestry Center helps to provide an additional resource for private forest owners who wish to diversify their income streams and cultivate a delicious plant.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Conservation options for landowners is topic of April 22 meeting in Senecaville

Landowners in Belmont, Guernsey and Noble counties can learn about the conservation protection options available to them at an April 22 meeting in Senecaville.
The meeting, which is sponsored by the area Farm Bureau office in cooperation with the Soil and Water Conservation Districts and OSU Extension, will be held at 7 p.m. at the Mid-East Career Center, Buffalo Campus, 57090 Vocational Rd., Senecaville.  The meeting will be an opportunity for property owners to learn about the land-protection options available via conservation and/or agricultural easements.
The meeting is free and open to the public. The area Farm Bureau is providing this meeting as an introduction to land conservation and land trust programming.

Kendrick Chittock, project manager for Western Reserve Land Conservancy, and Rich Sidwell, executive director of Captina Conservancy, will provide an overview of land conservancies and the options they provide to landowners.  Legal easement basics will be discussed, including who can establish them and what steps are required.  The overview will also list the benefits including tax reduction possibilities. Landowners in this region who are wondering whether their mineral leases would prohibit them from placing any protective easements on their properties will get a chance to explore that issue as well as other questions they may have.

Western Reserve Land Conservancy, the largest land trust in Ohio, has permanently preserved 558 properties and 41,954 acres, including 175 private farms and nearly 24,000 acres of farmland.  The Land Conservancy was formed in 2006 when eight local land trusts joined forces in the largest merger of its type in the United States.  Captina Conservancy was founded in 2010 to serve Belmont County and specifically the Captina Creek watershed. It is currently finalizing easement projects totaling 1,128 acres in Belmont and Monroe Counties and consulting on a pending easement in Noble County.

Both groups are members of the national Land Trust Alliance, and the Coalition of Ohio Land Trusts.  Land Trusts are nonprofit, non-governmental, organizations funded by charitable donations to protect and conserve lands within their mission regions.  They work to educate the public about conservation in their communities while overseeing easements, and in some cases, owning properties.
For more information on the meeting, contact Farm Bureau Organization Director Betsy Anderson at (740) 425-3681, banderson@ofbf.org or write to her at 100 Colonel Dr., Barnesville, Ohio 43713.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Ohio partnership to benefit public, private landowners; United State Department of Agriculture funding will help address a growing population of feral swine 03/19/2015 Daily Jeffersonian - Online, The

NELSONVILLE -- The United States Department of Agriculture is investing approximately $1.3 million this year to help improve the health and resiliency of forest ecosystems in Ohio. The funding will benefit public and private landowners in seventeen southeast Ohio counties. 

The U.S. Forest Service, Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources are pledging their support to Oak Management in the Ohio Appalachian Mountains. 

On public lands, this project will fund the control of invasive plants like Ailanthus (tree of heaven) that directly compete with native forest trees, as well as treatments that will improve conditions in forest stands with high potential for oak regeneration. 

Prescribed burning will also be conducted to help young oak and hickory trees thrive and grow. 

On private lands, funds for the USDA-NRCS Environmental Quality Incentives Program, a voluntary program that provides financial and technical assistance to agricultural and forestry producers, will be available to manage oak on private lands that have a Forest Stewardship plan in place. 

Treatments will focus on the control of invasive plants and competing native hardwoods to promote oak regeneration. 

NRCS administers EQIP with the ODNR Division of Forestry providing technical assistance to interested private woodland owners. Assistance from USDA-Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service will help address a growing population of feral swine across both private and public lands. 

"By leveraging the technical and financial resources of State and Federal agencies in Ohio, as well as a diverse group of partners, this coordinated effort is helping to restore lands across large landscapes that include both public and private landowners," said Forest Supervisor Anthony Scardina. 

Terry Cosby, Ohio's NRCS State Conservationist said, "People may be surprised to learn that 73 percent of the land within the Wayne National Forest proclamation boundary is privately owned and interspersed within the Forest boundaries. This clearly demonstrates the need to work with private landowners within the Forest if we want to significantly impact overall forest health, which is the goal of this project." 

"We are pleased to work with the many partners involved with this effort to improve forest management and wildlife habitat in the Appalachian areas of Ohio," said Robert Boyles, ODNR Deputy Director, State Forester and Chief of the ODNR Division of Forestry. "Ohio's Forest Action Plan provides evidence that oak-hickory forests are declining, and this is a trend that we are committed to reversing due to the unique qualities of oak forests for timber, wildlife habitat and other woodland benefits." 

Nationally, in support of the agencies' Chiefs' Joint Landscape Restoration Partnership, nearly $10 million this year is being invested in 15 projects across the nation to help mitigate wildfire threats to communities and landowners, protect water quality and supply and improve wildlife habitat for at-risk species. 

Funding for this initiative was made possible by the 2014 Farm Bill. The 2014 Farm Bill builds on historic economic gains in rural America over the past five years, while achieving meaningful reform and billions of dollars in savings for taxpayers. 

Since enactment, USDA has made significant progress to implement each provision of this critical legislation, including providing disaster relief to farmers and ranchers; strengthening risk management tools; expanding access to rural credit; funding critical research; establishing innovative public-private conservation partnerships; developing new markets for rural-made products; and investing in infrastructure, housing and community facilities to help improve quality of life. 

For more information, visit the website www.fs.usda.gov/wayne or follow the Wayne National Forest on Twitter: @waynenationalfs and also on Facebook. 

The U.S. Forest Service is an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a mission of sustaining the health, diversity and productivity of the nation's forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. 

The Forest Service's Eastern Region includes twenty states in the Midwest and East, stretching from Maine, to Maryland, to Missouri, to Minnesota. There are 17 national forests and one national tallgrass prairie in the Eastern Region. For more information, visit www.fs.usda.gov/R9

The U.S. Forest Service manages 193 million acres of public land, provides assistance to state and private landowners, and maintains the largest forestry research organization in the world. Public lands the Forest Service manages contribute more than $13 billion to the economy each year through visitor spending alone. 

Those same lands provide 20 percent of the nation's clean water supply, a value estimated at $7.2 billion per year. The agency has either a direct or indirect role in stewardship of about 80 percent of the 850 million forested acres within the U.S., of which 100 million acres are urban forests where most Americans live. 

Visit www.fs.usda.gov/ for additional information

Buckeye Lake Dam to be replaced

The Department of Natural Resources will begin immediate work to replace Buckeye Lake Dam, which was recently found to have serious structural deficiencies, Gov. John Kasich announced Thursday.  According to the governor's office, ODNR will begin the necessary permitting and design work for the structure. A US Army Corps of Engineers report released last week highlighted the dam's structural issues, as well as options for reducing public safety risks in the event of a catastrophic failure.  Gov. Kasich stressed that the safety of Ohioans in the inundation zone will remain a priority in the process.  "The Corps report clearly tells us that we have reached a point in time at which lives are in jeopardy and our priority must be protecting those people in harm's way," the governor said in a statement. "Buckeye Lake will remain a special place for many Ohioans and our intention is to save the lake and preserve this unique community."
ODNR Director James Zehringer indicated that the agency's prepared to release a Request for Qualifications, saying the state "will put in motion the processes necessary to build this dam."  "These are complex structures and with lives and livelihoods at stake, putting off tough decisions only creates additional problems in the future," he said in a release.

ODNR Seeks to Recognize Farm Families Leading in Conservation and Productivity

COLUMBUS, OH – Across the state, Ohio’s farmers continue to adopt practices on their land aimed at addressing important conservation issues, such as improving Ohio’s water quality. Food and agriculture remain Ohio’s No. 1 industry, annually contributing more than $105 billion to the state’s economy. As farmers are stewards of the land, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) is seeking nominations of Ohio farm families who are leaders in preserving and protecting our natural resources for the 2015 Conservation Farm Family Awards.

The Conservation Farm Family Award program has recognized Ohio farm families since 1984 for their efforts in managing natural resources while meeting both production and conservation goals. Individual farmers, partnerships or family farm corporations are eligible for nomination, provided a substantial portion of their income is derived from farming. The judging is based on the nominee's use of new and traditional conservation practices, comprehensive management, individual initiative in applying conservation measures and the nominee’s willingness to share conservation information, experiences and philosophy with others.

The awards program is sponsored by the ODNR Division of Soil and Water Resources, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Ohio Federation of Soil and Water Conservation Districts (OFSWCD), Ohio Farmer Magazine and the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation.

Five area finalists will be selected from across the state, and these finalists will be recognized at the annual Farm Science Review in September. They will also receive a $400 award, courtesy of the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation, and be featured in the September issue of Ohio Farmer Magazine.

Nomination forms can be obtained from local county soil and water conservation districts or by visiting the division’s website at soilandwater.ohiodnr.gov. The forms must be returned by May 1 to Ohio Farmer Magazine, 117 W. Main St., Suite 202, Lancaster, Ohio 43130.

Agriculture is the largest land use in the state, with nearly 14 million acres of farmland. Ohio’s 75,000 farms have both an impact and dependency upon the state’s land, water, woodland and wildlife resources. Conservation and wise resource management enable farmers to maintain a continued balance of economic productivity and environmental stewardship.

ODNR ensures a balance between wise use and protection of our natural resources for the benefit of all. Visit the ODNR website at ohiodnr.gov.


One of the most common responses that I have gotten from landowners as I have ranged across the Midwest in search of the Barn Owl is, “I remember when we used to have them in our barn.”  At one time, this owl was the second most common owl in Ohio.    It seems to have a special attachment to being near people, but is rarely seen even when it is present.    Two ingredients are needed in this owl’s habitat in order for it to survive – Cavities and Grass.    It seems that farmlands are just the place to supply these ingredients, or at least they once were.
Darkened peaks  of haymows, enclosed silos, tunnels in stacked hay, and large hollow trees in the front yard will suit the owl just fine for cavities.    In years gone by, many farm folk placed boxes in their barns and left entrance openings near the top just for these great mouse hunters.    With the slow disappearance of our once common, grand old barns and the cutting of those big old half hollow trees because of the liability they pose, the barn owl finds a landscape that does not have as much of this habitat feature.
The real key for the barn owl are those little furry animals that dart away when you lift a board laying in a field.   The Meadow Vole (most of us call them field mice) is the mainstay of the barn owl’s diet.   While house mice, rats, and shrews will be food for the owls, the vole is the fast food that they like best.   Voles are most common where hayfield and half-overgrown grassy areas abound.    The change-over from horse drawn equipment to tractors meant that every farm no longer needed to have its own source of hay.   That limited where you find the vole.   And because barn owls need lots of grassland for feeding a family, that caused their decline.
The barn owl was considered endangered in the state for many years and still has that status in most of the states around us.   Although it has made a come back, it is still one of our rarest of owls.   That is why the Ohio DNR is encouraging a new nest box program and Zane State College students in the Natural Science Club are taking up hammer and nails to provide nest boxes for them.    We are focusing our research on the owls in the Eastern part of Muskingum County and the neighboring counties where there is more grassland due to the reclaimed mine areas.  
We are seeking reports of the barn owl and are placing nest boxes in barns for free where we can find signs of their presence.    How do you know if you have the sneaky guys using your barn?    Look for white patches of their droppings along with the large, shiny, black pellets of fur.   These can be found near the ends of the haymow or under cross beam corners where they like to sit.   They will often sit and wait even when someone enters the barn, hoping that they will not be seen.   
If you think you might have the rare owl in your barn, give the Zane State Barn Owl Recon Team a call.   We will come out and check the area and place a nest box for free if we can confirm either the presence of the birds or adequate habitat for them.   
Barnowls@zanestate.edu or call Al Parker at 588-1259 or friend ZaneBarnOwls  on Facebook
The return of this member of the farm wildlife family may be closer than we think.   A family of the world’s best mouser may be your reward and an indicator of the health of our world.

– Al Parker – Zane State College Wildlife Instructor

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Sign up now for Southern Ohio Appalachian Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP)

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Last year, farmers in 10 Appalachian counties took advantage of the Southern Ohio Appalachian Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) to create grazing plans aimed at improving pasture quality and protecting natural resources. This year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) expanded the program to include 10 additional counties in the Appalachian region.

Eligible farmers in Adams, Athens, Gallia, Highland, Jackson, Lawrence, Meigs, Pike, Scioto, Vinton, Coshocton, Guernsey, Harrison, Jefferson, Morgan, Monroe, Muskingum, Noble, Perry, and Washington Counties can apply now for Southern Ohio Appalachian EQIP. All applicants must either have an existing grazing management plan or include developing a grazing management plan as part of their contract if they are selected for funding. Grazing management plans lay out which conservation practices to include in the plan and a schedule for implementing those practices over time, depending on the farmers’ goals and the natural resource issues present.

In the rolling southern Appalachian region, grazing animals can cause erosion problems. Rotational grazing, moving grazing animals from one pasture to another, allows pastures to regrow, improving the quality of pasture forages while also protecting the soil from exposure and erosion due to overgrazing. Creating these separate grazing areas requires either fixed or portable fencing, which may be included in the EQIP contract. Access roads, water pipelines and storage tanks, stream crossings, and heavy use area protection are other conservation practices frequently included in grazing management plans. Southern Ohio Appalachian EQIP funds help successful applicants cover a part of the cost of implementing these and other conservation practices in grazing management plans.

Since southern Ohio drains to the Mississippi River, soil erosion can affect water quality not only in Ohio’s lakes and rivers, but in places as far away as the Gulf of Mexico. The conservation practices offered through the Southern Ohio Appalachian EQIP help prevent this from happening, while creating healthier soil, forages, and livestock right here in Ohio.

Applications for EQIP submitted by entities, such as groups applying as a corporation, must have a DUNS (Data Universal Numbering System) number and an active SAM (System for Award Management) registration status when applying, a process that may take several weeks. Applications cannot be processed without this information. Information on obtaining a DUNS number and registering with SAM is posted at www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/farmbill.

Farmers with land in the 20-county Southern Appalachian EQIP area should make an appointment with the local NRCS conservationist to start the application process. The Guernsey/Noble Service Center is located at 1300 Clark St, Unit 10, Cambridge.  The phone number is 740-432-5621.

To receive consideration for funding this year, apply by April 17, 2015.

Learn more about NRCS programs and services to conserve Ohio’s natural resources at www.oh.nrcs.usda.gov.

Committee Moves Oil And Gas Bill, Adds Protections For State Parks

A unanimous House committee advanced oil and gas legislation Tuesday after amending the bill to allay Democrats' concerns that it could open the door to fracking in state parks and other public lands.  Prior to reporting the measure (HB 8), the House Energy & Natural Resources Committee adopted an amendment from ranking minority member Rep. Sean O'Brien (D-Brookfield), who said it would prevent "unitization" of state parks and prohibit any surface impacts to state forest lands from nearby drilling.  The proposal, which is one of House Republicans' priority bills, is set for a vote on the House floor Wednesday.  The bill would impose a deadline for the Department of Natural Resources to rule on applications for unitization, the process by which oil and gas companies can assemble multiple parcels of land into drilling unit to comply with minimum spacing requirements surrounding a well. The measure would also allow public lands to be included in a drilling unit.  The oil and gas industry and some landowners have said that relatively small parcels of state-owned land have prevented unitization orders from being finalized, thereby preventing landowners from exploiting their oil and gas reserves.
Proponents have also criticized ODNR's Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management for inexplicably delaying decisions on unitization requests, even for applications that don't involve public land and have agreement from the owners of far more than the required 65% of land area of a proposed unit.  During the hearing, committee members also adopted an amendment that joint sponsor Rep. Christina Hagan said would address the administration's concerns that the allowable timeframe for issuing an order was overly inflexible.
Environmentalists, and some Democrats on the committee, previously opposed the bill out of concern that it would reopen the potential for someone to frack under sensitive public lands from a neighboring property that might comprise only a tiny portion of the overall drilling unit.  Rep. David Leland, who voiced such concerns during a previous hearing, said he believed Rep. O'Brien's amendment offers sufficient protections for public land.  "I was concerned that it would make state parks subject to fracking. But we've taken care of that," he said in an interview after the hearing. "It's obviously what we wanted last week and I think it's a big victory for the people of Ohio."
Trent Dougherty, of the Ohio Environmental Council, similarly said the revisions adopted in committee would prevent fracking in sensitive state lands.  "This will keep industry out of state parks, limit their amount on state forests, keep them out of state nature preserves, and do it in a way that doesn't infringe on the rights of those property owners that have leased," he said.

A Different Sign of Spring

Photo of Spotted Salamander  by Erica Showalter

Article by Levi Arnold, Wildlife/Forestry Specialist
A sure sign that spring is upon us can be found not by what day of the month the calendar says it is, but by what nature is doing around us. Yes, it is getting warmer but what I’m really talking about is the wildlife. Our robins are returning, bluebirds are sounding off in the sunshine, but one of the most bizarre sure signs that spring is arriving is the salamander migration. Some of you may be thinking salamander migration? What, do they hitch a ride north with the birds or something? No, of course not, but salamander migration is no less spectacular than that of when birds make their journey back from the south.                                                                            
Mole salamanders (family Ambystomatidae) come out of upland wooded areas and travel to vernal pools where they breed. They spend most of their lives underground and out of sight. A night after a few days with temps in the fifties after a rain, typically early in March is when this mass migration takes place. Many of these salamanders are killed during this time of year due to habitat separation. Roads often separate the upland woods from the lowland vernal pools so salamanders are forced to travel across roads where they often meet their fate between tire and asphalt. Males are the first to arrive at the breeding grounds to await the females and typically outnumber the females.

Now that you’ve heard the term a few times you may be wondering, what’s a vernal pool?  A vernal pool is nothing more than a shallow seasonal wetland, typically only holding water for a few months out of the year in the spring and sometimes in the fall. These seasonal wetlands are crucial to Ambystomids because they provide them with the habitat needed to ensure their eggs reach maturity and hatch. Vernal pools are used because fish can’t inhabit the pools because they dry up; otherwise the eggs and salamanders would mostly be eaten by fish. The most common and recognizable species here in southeastern Ohio is probably the Spotted Salamander (Ambystoma maculatum) which lays an egg mass that contains between one-hundred and three hundred eggs. These salamanders migrate in masses and it’s not uncommon to find several in one vernal pool. A male salamander produces a spermatophore which the female takes into her body to fertilize the eggs. Female salamanders will attach their strand of eggs to some debris in the pool where they will hatch in couple weeks.  The eggs appear in masses from a jelly like substance that the females put on the eggs that expands when it comes in contact with water.

Looking for salamanders is a fun activity that can be enjoyed by the whole family. Many SWCD’s, state parks, and nature conservancy’s put on salamander hikes where you can go learn more about these interesting amphibians. For more information about salamanders in Ohio, the Ohio Division of Wildlife puts out a free Amphibians of Ohio Field Guide which is really helpful and full of great information.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Open Burning Precautions Urged during Spring Wildfire Season

COLUMBUS, OH – Ohioans are advised to be aware of the state’s outdoor burning regulations and take necessary precautions if they are planning to burn debris this spring, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR).
“Most wildfires in Ohio are caused by people that are simply careless when burning trash and other debris,” said Robert Boyles, state forester and chief of the ODNR Division of Forestry. “While largely unintentional, these fires place property and lives at unnecessary risk.”
Ohio law states outdoor debris burning is prohibited from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. during March, April and May. Burning is limited in the spring due to the abundance of dry fuel on the ground before small, grassy fuels green up with moisture. Winds can make a seemingly safe fire burn more intensely and escape control.
If a fire does escape control, immediately contact the local fire department. An escaped wildfire, even one burning in grass or weeds, is dangerous. Violators of Ohio’s burning regulations are subject to citations and fines. Residents should also check Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (Ohio EPA) regulations and consult with local fire officials about burning conditions.
The ODNR Division of Forestry offers these safety tips for burning debris outdoors:
  • Use a 55-gallon drum with a weighted screen lid to provide an enclosed incinerator.   
  • Know current and future weather conditions, have fire suppression tools on hand and never leave a debris burn unattended.
  • Be informed about state and local burning regulations.
  • Consult the local fire department for additional information and safety considerations.
  • Visit forestry.ohiodnr.gov and firewise.org for more information and tips on protecting a home and community.
  • Remember: “Don’t burn during the day in March, April and May.”
For more information about Ohio’s outdoor burning regulations by ODNR and Ohio EPA, go toforestry.ohiodnr.gov/burninglaws.
The ODNR Division of Forestry works to promote the wise use and sustainable management of Ohio’s public and private woodlands. To learn more about Ohio’s woodlands, visitforestry.ohiodnr.gov
ODNR ensures a balance between wise use and protection of our natural resources for the benefit of all. Visit the ODNR website at ohiodnr.gov.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Support for pollinators

WASHINGTON and COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Horticultural Research Institute is pleased to announce it will grant $125,000 in financial support for four key projects as part of the Horticultural Industry Bee & Pollinator Stewardship Initiative.

In 2014, the Horticultural Research Institute established a “Horticultural Industry Bee & Pollinator Stewardship Initiative” with three primary goals. First, to convene a task force to develop a bee and pollinator stewardship program, including creation of best management practices for plant production. Second, to identify and fund research that will help answer key science questions and fill gaps needed to design and refine the stewardship program. Third, to seek to positively position the horticultural community and its customers by collaborating with other compatible groups interested in augmenting pollinator habitat and protection.

Read rest of article   HERE

Effect of Residual Herbicides on Cover Crop Establishment

The interest in cover crops has increased recently due to the benefits they can provide to the corn-soybean cropping system. The use of residual herbicides has increased at the same time, and the potential impact these herbicides may have on establishing cover crops is an important consideration.

Read rest of article  HERE

Friday, March 13, 2015

Transitioning pastures from winter to spring

March and early April is a good time to begin transitioning pastures from winter to spring and one way to do that is with frost seeding.
“We need to get days where that temperature is getting in to the 40s and then falling back down below 30 at night,” said Wayne County Ohio Extension educator Rory Lewandowski. “We need to have actual freezing and thawing happening.”
Rory says spring is also a good time to have a soil test and while applying nutrients is possible we need to be careful to not apply when field conditions are too wet causing compaction. Lewandowski says it’s also important to not to over apply potassium.
“We know that in the spring of the year our grass plants can luxury consume potassium, they’ll take it up in preference to magnesium and then our plants, short of magnesium, our animals graze and we run into that condition called grass staggers or grass tetany and it relates back to that imbalance and not have enough magnesium.”
And while the temptation is to put animals out to pasture the first sign of green, Rory says it’s best to give pastures enough time to establish a couple of inches of growth to get it off to a good start.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Guernsey SWCD supports the YMCA Cake Auction

This is the cake the district donated for the YMCA cake auction  during the Home Show at the Pritchard Laughlin this weekend. Its a red velvet with chocolate icing.

The incentive is a 5# all cedar birdfeeder and a book on feeding wild birds.

Monday, March 9, 2015



Three recipients honored at the Ohio Governor’s Residence and Heritage Garden
BEXLEY, OH (March 5, 2015) – Ohio First Lady Karen W. Kasich and Ohio Agriculture Director David T.
Daniels today announced three 2014 Ohio Agriculture Women of the Year Award winners during a
reception at the Ohio Governor’s Residence and Heritage Garden.
“I am pleased to honor these exceptional Ohio women for their role in shaping our state’s most
important industry,” said Mrs. Kasich. “Their leadership and forward-thinking influence have made a
remarkable impact not only on their local communities, but also on the state as a whole.”

Eddie Lou Meimer (Mt. Gilead)
Meimer is a dairy farmer-turned maple syrup producer. She and her husband, John, operate Pleiades
Maple Products on their farm in Mt. Gilead, producing over 2500 gallons of syrup annually. Meimer is
responsible for all of the marketing, both retail and bulk, through direct marketing and farmers markets.
Meimer’s passion and commitment to agriculture are evident through her many awards and
distinctions, including receiving the Pioneer Service Award from the Ohio Jersey Breeder’s Association
and the Distinguished Service Award from the Morrow County Farm Bureau. She has been a 4-H advisor
for over 20 years, chairs the Morrow County Extension Advisory Committee and serves as the Northwest
Women’s Trustee for the Ohio Farm Bureau.

Opal Holfinger (Troy)
Holfinger has been a leader in agriculture and her community for many years, with dedicated
involvement in the Ohio Cattlemen’s Association, 4-H and serving in several different capacities both
with the Miami County Farm Bureau and Ohio Farm Bureau. She served as the chair of the Ohio
Expositions Commission and was a member of the commission for 10 years. During that time, many
agriculture improvements were implemented for the betterment of the state fair, which helped
contribute to her induction into the Ohio State Fair Hall of Fame in 2010.

Lucille Hastings (Big Prairie) 
Hastings has been actively engaged in the Ohio agriculture community for over 40 years, often as the
first woman in positions of leadership. As a recognized advocate of farmland preservation, she has
served as a member of the Ohio Farmland Preservation Advisory Board for over a decade. Hastings has
also served Holmes County Farm Bureau in a number of positions including board trustee and president.
When barn fires set by arsonists became an issue in Holmes County, she helped organize a regional
campaign and personally raised thousands of dollars to help with the arrest and conviction campaign and personally raised thousands of dollars to help with the arrest and conviction of those responsible. In addition to her service on numerous boards and commissions, she has acted as a manager of her own family farm for over a decade.

Each awardee will receive her name engraved on a plaque for permanent display at the Ohio
Department of Agriculture and a commendation from the Governor and First Lady. Recipients may also
serve as members of the selection committee the following year.
The award program is administered through the Ohio Department of Agriculture and the Office of the
First Lady. Nominations were reviewed by a diverse committee of industry leaders. Winners were
selected on the basis of their outstanding contributions to Ohio agriculture, leadership and advocacy in
the agricultural community and significant impact on the agriculture industry as a whole.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Miscanthus as Ideal Ethanol Source

Miscanthus tops stover, switchgrass as ideal ethanol source

Farm Progress

Models predict that miscanthus will have higher fuel yield and profit when compared to corn stover and switchgrass

Published on: Mar 5, 2015

A recent study simulated a side-by-side comparison of the yields and costs of producing ethanol using miscanthus, switchgrass, and corn stover, finding miscanthus a clear winner.
Models predict that miscanthus will have higher yield and profit, particularly when grown in poor-quality soil. It also outperformed corn stover and switchgrass in its ability to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, University of Illinois researchers say.
"One of the reasons for interest in these second-generation cellulosic feedstocks is that if they can be grown on low-quality soil, they wouldn't compete for land with food crops, such as corn," said U of I agricultural economist Madhu Khanna, study co-author.

Models predict that miscanthus will have higher fuel yield and profit when compared to corn stover and switchgrass. (USDA photo)
Models predict that miscanthus will have higher fuel yield and profit when compared to corn stover and switchgrass. (USDA photo)

"This study shows that although miscanthus yield was slightly lower on marginal, low-quality land, a farmer would have an economic incentive to grow miscanthus on the lower quality land first rather than diverting their most productive cropland from growing corn."
Already there has been skepticism about whether energy crops can be grown on low-quality land, but no side-by-side analysis that isolates the effect of soil quality on yield has been performed.
"In this study, we do that," said Evan DeLucia, U of I professor in integrative biology. "We were able to keep all of the conditions the same and only change the soil attributes."
The study used real data from the University of Illinois energy farm and other locations across the country to calibrate the model so that the findings are generalizable, a university statement said. The model simulated yields and greenhouse gas savings under 30 years of variable weather conditions as well.
GHG, cost implications
Another goal of the study was to examine the cost and greenhouse gas implications of using these sources of biomass for biofuel production.
The study found that even if corn stover is harvested responsibly (removing only 30% to 50%, depending on tillage choice) there was still a loss in soil carbon and the overall savings in greenhouse gas emissions were much smaller than those with switchgrass and miscanthus.
"It's tempting to use corn stover because it's already there—farmers who grow corn don't have to plant another crop to produce biofuel feedstock," Khanna said. "But in some cases corn stover is only about 59% cleaner than gasoline while miscanthus is about 140% cleaner."
Khanna said if reducing GHGs and lowering the carbon intensity of fuel is the goal, energy grasses like miscanthus and switchgrass provide larger reductions than corn stover.
Making the choice of miscanthus-based ethanol more pleasing at the pump for consumers is another consideration. Khanna says that a price on carbon would be one way to equalize the cost of using gasoline and ethanol for consumers when filling up their tank.
"Ethanol made from miscanthus would need a much smaller carbon price to make it desirable to produce and for consumers to purchase as compared to ethanol from switchgrass and corn stover," Khanna said.
"Even though corn stover may in some cases be cheaper to produce, it is a much more expensive way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions than energy grasses."
"Cost of Abating Greenhouse Gas Emissions with Cellulosic Ethanol" was published in Environmental Science and Technology.
This research was supported by funding from the North Central Regional Sun Grant Center at South Dakota State University through a grant provided by the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Biomass Programs and from the Energy Biosciences Institute, University of California, Berkeley.
Source: University of Illinois

Upcoming Teacher's Workshop - Water Quality Education

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Is Dirt the New Prozac?

Some researchers have proposed that the sharp rise in asthma and allergy cases over the past century stems, unexpectedly, from living too clean. The idea is that routine exposure to harmless microorganisms in the environment—soil bacteria, for instance—trains our immune systems to ignore benign molecules like pollen or the dandruff on a neighbor’s dog.

Read rest of article  HERE

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Farmers: Take the survey and give your input

Sustainable Agriculture  
Research and Education 
Advancing innovations in sustainable agriculture since 1988

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National Survey on Cover Crops Seeks Farmer Participation

Farmers are invited to share their thoughts on cover crops - whether or not they use cover crops themselves - in a national survey, now in its third year of collecting valuable data on the increasingly popular management practice. The results, which will be released this summer, will help growers, researchers, agricultural advisors, ag retailers and policymakers more effectively address questions about cover crops and learn about best practices.

Farmers, take the online survey now.

Farmers who complete the questionnaire are eligible for a drawing for one of two $100 Visa gift cards. All answers are anonymous; respondents will be directed to another website at the end of the survey to enter the $100 Visa gift card drawing.

The survey is being conducted by the Conservation Technology Information Center (CTIC) and is sponsored by USDA's Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program, the American Seed Trade Association (ASTA) and Corn+Soybean Digest.

All farmers are invited to complete the survey, says Chad Watts, project manager for CTIC.

"It doesn't matter if you've planted cover crops for 40 years or if you've never worked with them before," he notes. "We want to hear from farmers with all levels of interest and experience. It's just as important to understand what might be preventing a farmer from planting cover crops as it is to understand why another grower is so excited."

Read more.... (Takes you to site, or read below.)

Data from this year’s survey will be compared to information from the two previous years in an effort to identify trends in cover crop practices or attitudes toward cover crops. Other questions will help conservation leaders zero in on details of cover crop practices. SARE, ASTA and scientists from Purdue University helped develop the questionnaire and will also help analyze the results. The editors ofCorn+Soybean Digest are distributing the release to their subscribers, inviting a broad base of farmers to participate.
Watts points out that the past two surveys have been extremely influential in helping shape research priorities, educational materials and even public policy related to cover crops. Last year, Jason Weller, chief of the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), cited findings from the 2013 SARE/CTIC Cover Crop Survey in testimony to the U.S. House of Representatives Agriculture Committee.
“Taking a few minutes to share your opinions about cover crops is a major contribution to the world of conservation agriculture, and it has a real impact on the future of cover crops,” Watts says.
All answers are anonymous; respondents will be directed to another website at the end of the survey to enter the $100 Visa gift card drawing.