Growing Returns

Selected tag(s): bird habitat

Operation Warbler: Fort Hood and local ranchers team up to save bird

Dr. Gene Murph stands in front of prime golden-cheeked warbler habitat on his Texas ranch

Dr. Gene Murph stands in front of prime golden-cheeked warbler habitat on his Texas ranch

I’m going to take you back to 2005, to a ranch in the Texas Hill Country, where Dr. Gene Murph operates an 80-head cattle operation on 1,300 acres of rangeland.

The ranch is vast, with rolling hills and wooded ravines. The only sounds on the ranch are those of cattle mooing in the pastures and birds trilling in the trees. If you listen closely enough, you can hear the signature call of the golden-cheeked warbler. If you look closely enough, you can spot the bird’s sunshine-yellow face.

The golden-cheeked warbler was listed as an endangered species in 1990, making Dr. Murph’s ranch a vital stronghold for subpopulations, which nest at select sites scattered throughout 33 counties in central Texas.

Another nearby stronghold for the bird is the Fort Hood Army Base, only a few miles down the road from Dr. Murph’s ranch and home to the largest known population of golden-cheeked warblers. Read More »

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USDA: Helping ranchers is crucial to helping sage-grouse

Central Oregon rancher restores sage-grouse habitat with NRCS assistance. Source: nrcs.usda.gov

Central Oregon rancher restores sage-grouse habitat with NRCS assistance. Source: nrcs.usda.gov

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) just announced new funding to support sage-grouse habitat conservation on working lands.

This is very promising, considering the last round of sage-grouse funding engaged more than 1,000 ranchers to conserve 4.4 million acres of bird habitat – an area twice the size of Yellowstone National Park.

That last round of funding – made available in 2010 through the Natural Resource Conservation Service’s (NRCS) Sage Grouse Initiative – invested $296.5 million to restore and conserve sage-grouse habitat. Today, NRCS pledged to extend these efforts by $200 million over another for years.

Doubling down on a good investment
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A sixth-generation farmer with a fresh and optimistic perspective on conservation

O'Toole Family

Pat O’Toole (second from left) and his family at Ladder Ranch.

Pat O’Toole is a rancher and farmer at Ladder Livestock, a sixth-generation family operation on the Little Snake River along the Wyoming-Colorado border. A leader in collaborative conservation, Pat is engaged in a number of innovative land and water conservation efforts in his capacity as president of the Family Farm Alliance and a member of the AGree advisory board.

This past September, Pat co-authored an AGree paper with Dan Keppen, Executive Director of Family Farm Alliance. The paper – Securing the Future of Western Agriculture: A Perspective of Western Producers – addresses some broad challenges facing the global food and agriculture system. Namely, the need to meet future demands for food while simultaneously enhancing water, soil and other natural resources.

I recently had the opportunity to visit Pat’s ranch to get a sense of these challenges that he and other Western producers face, and to learn more about what Pat is doing to overcome these challenges on his ranch. I asked him to give us a recap of our discussion and to tell us more about his vision for the future.
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