History of Conservation Districts

But the storms stretched across the nation. They reached south to Texas and east to New York. Dust even sifted into the White House and onto the desk of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

On Capitol Hill, while testifying about the erosion problem, soil scientist Hugh Hammond Bennett threw back the curtains to reveal a sky blackened by dust. Congress unanimously passed legislation declaring soil and water conservation a national policy and priority. Because nearly three-fourths of the continental United States is privately owned, Congress realized that only active, voluntary support from landowners would guarantee the success of conservation work on private land.

In 1937, President Roosevelt wrote the governors of all the states recommending legislation that would allow local landowners to form soil conservation districts. Brown Creek Soil & Water Conservation District in North Carolina was the first district established. The movement caught on across the country with district-enabling legislation passed in every state. Today, the country is blanketed with nearly 3,000 conservation districts. In Pennsylvania, Potter County was the very first Soil Conservation District organized in 1945.

Locally, the Jefferson County Soil Conservation was formed in accordance with provisions in Legislative Act No. 217 providing for the formation of Districts. Due to the interest of county farmers in the conservation of their soil resources, the resolution was passed by the County Commissioners on March 1, 1946, creating Jefferson County's first Soil Conservation District.

At the Commissioners' Meeting on July 5, 1946, the following were named as Jefferson County Soil Conservation District's first Directors: Donald T. Smith, Silas A. Weaver, Merton E. Shields, Irvin J. Allshouse, and Arthur I. Eberhart.

The District was organized on September 13, 1946. "The purpose of the district is to promote better land use, conserve and improve soil and soil resources by erosion control and drainage, protect private and public property by controlling floods, and thus promote the health, safety and general welfare of the people."

In the early 1930s, along with the greatest depression this nation ever experienced, came an equally unparalleled ecological disaster known as the Dust Bowl.  Following a severe and sustained drought in the Great Plains, the region's soil began to erode and blow away, creating huge black dust storms that blotted out the sun and swallowed the countryside.  Thousands of “dust refugees” left the black fog to seek better lives.

Here is a complete list of past Directors of the Jefferson County Conservation District.
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implement farm, ranch and forestland conservation practices to protect soil productivity, water quality and quantity, air quality and wildlife habitat;

conserve and restore wetlands, which purify water and provide habitat for birds, fish and numerous other animals;

protect groundwater resources;

assist communities and homeowners to plant trees and other land cover to hold soil in place, clean the air, provide cover for wildlife and beautify neighborhoods;

help developers control soil erosion and protect water and air quality during construction;

and reach out to communities and schools to teach the value of natural resources and encourage conservation efforts.
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In October of 2006, the Jefferson County Conservation District celebrated their 60th Anniversary. Click here
for more information.
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