A watercolor painting of a field of grass with a red barn and silos in the background.
How was the Soil & Water Conservation Formed?
Soil and Water Conservation and their governing Board of Supervisors were formed nationwide, based on enabling legislation from Congress that grew out of the devastating Dust Bowl and other critical conservation problems of the 30's. This enabling legislation granted individual states the right to form Soil and Water Conservation Districts.

Who is the Founder?

Dr. Hugh Hammond Bennett, a North Carolina native from Anson County, was instrumental in coordinating national effort toward solving the critical conservation problems that the country faced. Dr. Bennett can be credited with those soil and water conservation programs around the nation today.

Standard State Soil Conservation District Law

On May 13, 1936 the USDA published and released a Standard State Soil Conservation District Law to serve as a guide to the states in passing conservation district laws. By June 30, 1936 18 states had enacted similar district legislation. Many followers join Dr. Bennett's campaign until they finally received help from the White house to pass national legislation.

On February 27, 1937 President Franklin D. Roosevelt transmitted copies of his famous letter to 48 state governors urging each state to adopt legislation similar to the "model law" (which was the Standard State Soil Conservation District Law), copy of which was enclosed, that would provide for the organization of local "soil conservation districts."

That same year, the North Carolina General Assembly along with 21 other states passed the Soil and Water Conservation District Law, and the citizens of Anson County charted the Brown Creek Soil and Water District on august 4, 1937. This District was the first Soil and Water Conservation District organized in the United States. Nearly 4/5 of the states enacted similar laws in the next 3 years. By 1947 all of the states and the Territories of Hawaii and Alaska had passed similar legislation.

Why were the Districts Formed?
Under the law, North Carolina General Statute 139, Soil and Water Conservation Districts are organized to plan and carry out a conservation program that the local people need and want.

District affairs are managed by individual and groups involved in a coordinated conservation program, including resources from local, state and federal agencies. This way, government assistance in conservation practices remain under local control. It was felt that local people, rather than the Federal Government, could better manage their own resources through a Soil and Water Conservation District.

At first. Districts followed watershed boundaries rather than county boundaries as many are established today, which means that some district included more than one county or parts of counties in the early days. The Standard Law did not provide any guidelines for establishing district boundaries. USDA leaders generally favored watershed boundaries for district while most of the state laws were based on county boundaries. Many of the state laws that were established on a watershed basis were later changed to a county basis. Today most districts are county wide districts.

Since 1937, this type of self-government has contributed greatly to the protection, improvement, and use of land and water resources with positive changes seen in farm income, family well-being, and stabilization of local communities.