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The Biology of Fall Leaves: It's all about Chemistry

Forests become a veritable garden in the fall, presenting a riot of color in national forests as well as on the streets where we live.

But what exactly is going on in those leaves? How – and why – do leaves change color, and why is there so much variety? It boils down to chemistry.

On the Map: The Land, Water and Conservation Fund

There is a Federal program that you may not have heard of, but it is responsible for conserving millions of acres of recreational and conservation lands for Americans to enjoy, and it helps fund local parks, provide access to rivers and trails, and preserve wildlife habitat in every state in the Union.  This program is the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and each year, the Department of the Interior and Department of Agriculture request funding from Congress to support grants to states and high priority federal recreational and conservation investments. Locating and learning about these special places is now easier than ever through a new . The map enables everyone to explore the 173 public projects proposed for investment in 43 states, including important waterfowl nesting habitat in the Prairie Potholes, battlefields and historic sites from Pennsylvania to Washington, scenic vistas in iconic locations like Maine’s Acadia National Park, and recreation sites in national monuments in California and Arizona.

Land and Water Conservation funds secure access for the American public to their Federal lands.  For 50 years, the law has been one of the most successful programs for recreation and conservation in our history. LWCF has provided funding to local communities that supported the construction of more than 40,000 city parks, hiking and biking trails, and boat ramps, and access to thousands of acres of fishing and hunting and  important wildlife habitat.

Celebrating 25 Years of Grand Island National Recreation Area

With breathtaking views of Lake Superior, sandstone cliffs, pristine beaches and rich history, Michigan’s is definitely your gateway to “cross over to adventure!”

Surrounded on every side by rugged Great Lake waters, Grand Island has been managed by the since 1990.

That means that 2015 marks the 25th Anniversary of this lovely green jewel being transformed into a public land treasure.

What is Wilderness? Experience Exceeds the Definition

As I reach the pinnacle of this stretch of trail my heart is racing, my calves are burning, and my face is dripping with perspiration. I feel strong. I remove the pack from my aching shoulders and grab my water bottle. I am refreshed as I gulp it down. This is sweet mountain water that will eventually trickle down to taps in the city below. Up here, it’s clear and icy cold and the only type of water I have consumed during my five-day wilderness experience.

I lower the bottle from my mouth to admire my accomplishments. The top of the mountain pass has rewarded me with spectacular views of surrounding peaks. I feel alone, but not forlorn. I unravel the contents of my pack and begin to set up my final camp.

Experience Earth Day with USDA

Earth Day is a reminder that some of our best moments can be spent in the great outdoors.

Getting outside is one of the best ways to feel re-invigorated, whether on a short hike to the Crags Trail on or on a longer exploration of the 2,175-mile , which winds through 14 states and across eight national forests.

The range of outdoor activities run the gamut from hiking, camping, boating, bird watching, and experiencing wildlife to photographing nature, hunting and fishing.

Go Outside, Play This Labor Day Weekend

What better way to spend a three-day weekend than outside with friends and family? offer a wide variety of recreation opportunities ranging from backcountry camping far from civilization to developed picnic areas with all the facilities you need for the perfect end-of-summer barbecue with family and friends.

Of course, there are still fires burning in some areas of the country so check the status of your destination before heading out. Safety is key.

Here are a few ideas to help you plan your weekend:

Native Peoples Honored with Trail in Oregon National Forest

The Alsea were a tribe of Native Americans who, for thousands of years, lived along the central Oregon Coast. In 1901 anthropologist Livingston Farrand predicted their loss in “Notes on the Alsea Indians of Oregon.”

On June 1, the City of Yachats, a small coastal city in Oregon, joined with the and to celebrate with a variety of activities, including the dedication of the new Ya’Xaik (pronounced yäh' khīk) Trail. The trail is named for the only known village of the Alsea people who originally inhabited the area.

This trail is the result of many years of collaborative planning between the City of Yachats, the , area land owners and many citizen volunteers.

Unique Collaboration Strategy Brings Trail Users Together in Georgia National Forests

The in Georgia receive 2.2 million visitors each year, and their primary activity is use of 850 miles of designated system . But it’s not only hikers that take advantage of the recreation opportunities which these trails provide. Cyclists, hunters, anglers, off-highway vehicle enthusiasts and horseback riders all recreate on national forest trails-- and they don’t always see eye-to-eye.

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