Bastrop County Conservation Partners Host Annual Conservation Workshop and Awards Banquet

When: August 1, 2018

Time: 1:00 pm - 4:00 pm

Location: First National Bank Conference Room, 489 Hwy 71 W, Bastrop, TX 78602

Bastrop, Texas, July 5, 2018—The Bastrop County Soil and Water Conservation District and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) cordially invite the public to attend the Annual Conservation Workshop and Conservation Awards Banquet to be held August 1, 2018 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the First National Bank Conference Room in Bastrop at 489 Hwy 71 W, Bastrop, TX 78602. This year’s workshop will feature sessions about Agricultural and Wildlife Tax Exemption requirements in Bastrop County.

The Bastrop County Central Appraisal District will present on the qualifications and details landowners need to know in order to convert and maintain agriculture and wildlife tax exemption status. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department will go into more detail about the process of creating a habitat management plan (a requirement for a wildlife tax exemption) and ways to prioritize target wildlife species.

The Annual Conservation Planning Meeting will follow. The meeting is an interactive way for stakeholders to offer input that guides Farm Bill conservation program funding in Bastrop County. Participants vote on conservation priorities and can bring up topics and issues relevant to helping Bastrop County farmers and ranchers better conserve on-farm natural resources. Farmers, ranchers, conservationists, and others interested in obtaining federal technical and financial assistance to improve private lands are invited to participate.

The workshop will end with the Awards Banquet and Reception that will highlight the Bastrop County Conservation Rancher of the Year, Dan White, the Conservation Partner of the Year, LCRA, and the Conservation Poster Contest winners and scholarship awardee. There will also be a farewell to Jason Morris, NRCS Rangeland Management Specialist, who is continuing his career in graduate school.

Please RSVP by July 27th to plan for seating and refreshments to bastropcounty@swcd.texas.gov or 512-321-2489 ex. 3. Attendance is free of charge. For more information, please contact Hilary Bravenec, District Conservationist, at the number above or visit the Bastrop County SWCD website at http://www.bastropswcd.org or the NRCS website at http://www.tx.nrcs.usda.gov/. Please contact 2 weeks prior to the meeting with any special needs for hearing or visually impaired.

 

USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer and lender.

Press Release: The Importance of Pollinators to Soil and Water Conservation in Texas

TEMPLE – The Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board, Association of Texas Soil and Water Conservation Districts, Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association, and Texas Wildlife Association are joining other state agencies and organizations in a statewide campaign to highlight the importance of voluntary land stewardship in Texas. Soil and Water Stewardship Week is April 29 through May 6, 2018, and the focus this year is “The Importance of Pollinators to Soil and Water Conservation in Texas.”
 
Pollinators include the birds and the bees (butterflies, bats, beetles, moths, and even small mammals) and are vital for production agriculture, our food supply, and the preservation of our natural resources.  Many Texas farmers, ranchers, foresters, and urbanites recognize the importance of these insects and animals, and are attempting to regenerate pollinator populations by implementing voluntary conservation practices on private and public lands.  Texans have been working with their local Soil and Water Conservation Districts (SWCDs) for over 75 years to voluntarily implement conservation practices that protect and enhance our soil and water resources. 
 
Unfortunately, pollinator populations have been declining in the United States for several years, primarily due to loss of habitat.  Thankfully there are many landowners in Texas that want pollinators on their property, and for good reasons.  To begin with, pollinators are essential for productive agricultural ecosystems, such as row crop production and agro-forestry, and they ensure the production of fruit and seeds in many crops, grasses, and timber.  Likewise, pollinators play a significant role in natural rangeland ecosystems by helping to keep plant communities healthy and reproducing, which in turn prevents soil erosion, improves water quality, and provides food and cover for native wildlife.
 
Soil and Water Conservation Districts are assisting producers to achieve their goal of regenerating pollinator populations by developing voluntary conservation plans.  These conservation plans include the implementation of conservation practices that have the dual benefit of protecting natural resources and providing pollinator habitat. Such voluntary practices include riparian buffers, grassed waterways, planting native grasses and wildflowers, cover crops, pest management, and prescribed grazing.

Without healthy and productive rangeland, cropland, and forests, our pollinators will fail, production agriculture will fail, and our society will ultimately fail.  Whether you’re a farmer, a rancher, a forester, or just want to plant an urban flower garden, it is up to you to decide how to run your operation.  We need pollinators, and we also need good stewards of our lands that protect and preserve the natural resources of Texas.

Partnering organizations in the “The Importance of Pollinators to Soil and Water Conservation in Texas” public awareness campaign includes Audubon Texas, Earthmoving Contractors Association of Texas, Independent Cattlemen’s Association of Texas, San Antonio River Authority, South Texans’ Property Rights Association, Texan by Nature, Texas Association of Dairymen, Texas A&M Forest Service, Texas A&M Natural Resources Institute, Texas Conservation Association for Water and Soil, Texas Grain and Feed Association, Texas Grazing Land Coalition, Texas Land Trust Council, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Texas Poultry Federation, Texas Seed Trade Association, Texas Sheep and Goat Raisers Association, Texas Water Resources Institute, U.S Rice Producers Association, and USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.

For more information on “The Importance of Pollinators to Soil and Water Conservation in Texas,” please visit www.tsswcb.texas.gov.

News Release: NRCS- Funding Available for Wildfire Mitigation on Agricultural Lands in Bastrop County

 

BASTROP, Texas – April 3, 2018 --- The USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is seeking applications for a targeted effort through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) to address wildfire mitigation needs on agricultural lands in the Bastrop County. The Bastrop County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) sponsored the proposal to target wildfire mitigation efforts through the EQIP program, allowing additional funding to be available to ag producers for specific conservation practices like firebreaks, fuel breaks, prescribed burning and brush thinning.

 

The Bastrop County SWCD has been working with landowners since 1958 to protect and enhance our natural resources, often through cooperation and partnership with the USDA-NRCS. “As we saw in 2011, wildfires threaten our soil and water resources because the lack of cover causes erosion and sedimentation in waterways,” notes Brook Hurta, chairman for the Bastrop SWCD. “We feel it is important for all landowners to be proactive in managing their property to reduce the risk of wildfire danger to help protect our valuable resources and make the county safer for everyone.”

 

Hilary Bravenec, District Conservationist with the NRCS, agrees, “After experiencing three catastrophic wildfires in the recent decade, most Bastrop County residents understand deep down that it’s not if a wildfire will happen again but when it will happen. In relatively wet years, the threat of wildfires seems further away, but a “flash drought” can hit any time, quickly escalating the risk of wildfire. In 2015, Bastrop County received over 50” of rain, including dramatic rainfall and flood events that spring, but the Hidden Pines fire ignited after extremely dry weather between July and September.”

 

NRCS encourages the use of brush management, shaded fuel breaks, prescribed burning and other practices to reduce fuel loads that contribute to extreme wildfire behavior. Large swaths of the county have excessive cedar and yaupon invasions that aren’t representative of the historic landscape. These species are volatile and often serve as ladder fuels that spread fire into tree canopies and make a fire much more dangerous, as witnessed in the catastrophic 2011 Bastrop Complex Fire. Areas with ladder fuels experienced the greatest fire severity, whereas fire severity was much lower in areas that previously received understory clearing treatments.

 

Wildfire mitigation is not a one-time treatment. Brush regrows, so maintenance should be ongoing to keep fuel loads in check.

 

Conservation technical assistance from the Bastrop County SWCD or USDA-NRCS is always free and available to all landowners in the county. EQIP is available to agricultural producers on agricultural lands and can provide financial assistance for wildfire mitigation and many other conservation concerns. In Texas, the NRCS has set an initial EQIP application cutoff of April 20th, with another cutoff on June 1st. Interested producers should apply before those dates by contacting the Bastrop County NRCS office at 512-321-2489 ex. 3 or hilary.bravenec@tx.usda.gov. The USDA Service Center is located at 507 Old Austin Hwy, Bastrop, TX 78602.

 

The USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer and lender.

Conservation Stewardship Program Applications due March 2, 2018

 Agricultural producers wanting to enhance current conservation efforts are encouraged to apply for the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP).

Through CSP, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) helps private landowners build their business while implementing conservation practices that help ensure the sustainability of their entire operation. NRCS plans to enroll up to 10 million acres in CSP in 2018.

While applications for CSP are accepted year round, applications must be received by March 2, 2018 to be considered for this funding period.

Through CSP, agricultural producers and forest landowners earn payments for actively managing, maintaining, and expanding conservation activities like cover crops, ecologically-based pest management, buffer strips, and pollinator and beneficial insect habitat – all while maintaining active agriculture production on their land. CSP also encourages the adoption of cutting-edge technologies and new management techniques such as precision agriculture applications, on-site carbon storage and planting for high carbon sequestration rate, and new soil amendments to improve water quality.

Some of these benefits of CSP include:

·         Improved cattle gains per acre;

·         Increased crop yields;

·         Decreased inputs;

·         Wildlife population improvements; and

·         Better resilience to weather extremes.

NRCS recently made several updates to the program to help producers better evaluate their conservation options and the benefits to their operations and natural resources. New methods and software for evaluating applications help producers see up front why they are or are not meeting stewardship thresholds, and allow them to pick practices and enhancements that work for their conservation objectives. These tools also enable producers to see potential payment scenarios for conservation early in the process.

Producers interested in CSP should contact the USDA Service Center in Bastrop at 507 Old Austin Hwy or (512) 321-2489 ex. 3. or visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/GetStarted. 

The USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer and lender

Poster Contest Due January 31st 2018

Why are soils so important? What lives in soils? How do you keep soil healthy? Paint us a picture of how you see this year's Poster Contest theme Healthy Soils are Full of Life.

$100 prize for first place county winner.

Posters must be decorated on a 22" x 14" Poster board and submitted to Bastrop County Soil and Water Conservation District. Visit http://www.nacdnet.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/2017-Poster-Contest-PPP.compressed.pdf  for more information on the contest theme or call our office (512)321-24 89 Ext. 3

healthy-soils-are-full-of-life2017.jpg

2018 Poster Contest

Conservation Scholarship Essay 2018

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Bastrop Soil and Water Conservation District

Scholarship Opportunity

Bastrop Soil and Water Conservation District is now accepting essays to be considered for a $500.00 scholarship. High school seniors that are interested in pursuing agriculture or conservation as they enter college are welcome to apply. An essay with a minimum of 150 words is necessary in order to be considered for the scholarship, along with the questionnaire found below. Send completed application and essay to our office at 507 Old Austin Highway Bastrop Tx, 78602. or email bastropcounty@swcd.texas.gov. Essays are dues March 31st 2018.

Spread the word about ACC FALL COURSES

This message is a copy of an email from Evelyn Rosas of the ACC Sustainable Agriculture Program:

Dear Friends of the ACC Sustainable Agriculture Program, 

We have so many wonderful courses and need help spreading the word.  All of the courses and their descriptions and schedules can be found here.

Specifically for this Fall, the courses can be found here.

Here's a blurb on each Fall course:

Introduction to Sustainable Agriculture

Taught by garden and farm educator, Michele Hockett Cooper.  This course introduces the practices and philosophies of sustainable agriculture and addresses the students' personal interests and possible roles in the field.  Students will spend time learning on the campus farm, on field trips, and in the classroom. 

Farm and Ranch Equipment, 

Taught Vivian Smotherman of Farm-1-1 and Eden Cove Farm.  She will lead students in learning about tractor and farm equipment maintenance on the campus farm, tractor operation, and the ever-so-valuable evaluation of used equipment for your small farm.

Sustainable Orchard Production

Taught by Greg Mast of Tree Folks.  This course will address fruit and nut trees for Central Texas, from planting and all aspects of care.  Students will be involved in the orchard plan for the campus farm, including site preparation considerations and planting.

Beekeeping Intro & Intermediate

Taught by Cassandra Carico of Bee People Industries.  Students rave about these beekeeping classes.  From the beginning students will get all the basics to starting their adventure in bee stewardship.  The intermediate course will help students hone their confidence and develop their own interests and style in their beekeeping experience.

Introduction to Soil

Taught by Evelyn Rosas, of ACC's ag program and farm.  Soils students will spend hands on time in the biology lab and the campus farm lab, getting the low down on what is happening beneath our feet and how to work with the soil as an ecological farmer.  

ADDITIONALLY, we are still seeking instructors for all courses.  Do you know someone with sustainable farming experience that is seeking to share their expertise and collaborate with the Elgin Campus Student Farm?  We are looking for instructors for all courses, and especially for: small farm business planning, forage and pasture management, sustainable livestock production.  Peruse the list of courses here.  Send them my way! evelyn.rosas@austincc.edu

 

With gratitude, 

Evelyn

Local Workgroup Meeting and Pollinator Class

Good day!  I want to take this opportunity to inform everyone of our upcoming Local Workgroup Meeting with the Bastrop NRCS to determine their ranking priorities.  The meeting will take place on August 23rd and will determine how money is allocated among different categories (range, pasture, cropland) for the upcoming year.

After the meeting we will have a presentation by _____ speaking about managing landscapes with native pollinators in mind.

We hope to see lots of folks there.