History of the Conservation Districts

Conservation Districts were created by federal law in 1937 in response to the Dust Bowl of the early 1930’s. Beginning in 1932, drought conditions in the Great Plains caused widespread crop failures and exposed the soil to blowing wind. In 1933, Franklin D. Roosevelt contacted Hugh Hammond Bennett, a soil scientist and “The Father of Soil Conservation”, to awaken public concern for the problem of Soil Erosion.  Bennett informed FDR that 100 million acres of the Great Plains Region had lost some topsoil and half had been destroyed and could never be farmed again.

In May of 1934, a large dust storm swept fine soil particles over Washington, D. C. and continued to spread 300 miles out into the Atlantic Ocean. In March of 1935, dust clouds passed over Washington and darkened the sky just as Congress started hearings on the proposed soil conservation law. Bennett spoke before Congress and persuaded them to fund a permanent agency to heal the land. He requested that a local conservation district be set up in each farm community to address conservation issues unique to that area. Each district would be empowered to determine local needs and have personal contact with local landowners. Congress passed the Soil Conservation Act on April 27, 1935, creating the Soil Conservation Service (SCS). On February 27, 1937, Franklin D. Roosevelt sent a letter to all State Governors recommending enactment of soil conservation district legislation.