History of Conservation Districts

  

Dust cloud consuming houses

The 1930s brought an ecological disaster known as the Dust Bowl. Huge black dust storms blotted out the sun and swallowed the countryside. In the mid 1930’s, the Soil Conservation Service (SCS) was started by the efforts of three key people: M.L. Wilson, Philip Glick, and the ‘Father of Conservation’, Hugh Bennett. While testifying on Capitol Hill on April 2, 1935, soil scientist Hugh Bennett threw back the room’s curtains to reveal a sky blackened by dust. Congress immediately declared soil and water conservation a national policy and priority. Since about three-fourths of the land in the U.S. is privately owned, Congress realized that only active support from landowners would guarantee the success of conservation on private land. The idea for soil and water conservation districts was born. President Roosevelt wrote letters to the Governors of each state encouraging them to implement and support Conservation Districts.

Dust bowl landscape

Today there are over 3000 Conservation Districts across the United States, all political subdivisions of state government, created by the legislature–one in almost every county. Now expanded to serve all the conservation needs of our nation, districts educate and help local citizens conserve soil, water, forests, wildlife and other natural resources.

Photos courtesy of DNRC