History

Conservation districts had their beginning in the 1930s when Congress, in response to national concern over mounting erosion, floods and the sky-blackening dust storms that swept across the country, enacted the Soil Conservation Act of 1935.  The act stated for the first time a national policy to provide a permanent program for the control and prevention of soil erosion, and directed the Secretary of Agriculture to establish the Soil Conservation Service to implement this policy.  The conservation district concept was developed to enlist the cooperation of landowners and occupiers in carrying out the programs authorized by the act.

To encourage local participation in the program, President Roosevelt sent all state governors A Standard State Soil Conservation Districts Law, with a recommendation for enactment of legislation along its lines.  On March 3, 1937, Arkansas became the first state to adopt a law modeled on the Standard Act.  On August 4, 1937, the first conservation district, the Brown Creek Soil Conservation District, was established in North Carolina.  Interestingly enough, the Brown Creek District included the birthplace of Dr. Hugh Hammond Bennett, the first Chief of the Soil Conservation Service – commonly referred to as the father of soil conservation.  By 1938, twenty-seven states had followed suit, and by the late 1940s, all fifty states had adopted similar legislation.  Districts laws were adopted in the 1960s by Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, and in the 1980s by the District of Columbia, Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands.


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