Soil and Water Conservation Districts


What is a Soil and Water Conservation District? Across the United States, nearly 3,000 conservation districts - almost one in every county - are helping local people to conserve land, water, forests, wildlife and related natural resources.

Conservation Districts were originally formed during the days of the Dust Bowl to combat the severe erosion problems caused by intense farming practices. Since that time, SWCDs have adapted to provide local assistance on a broad array of natural resource issues. They are local units of state government, established to carry out programs for conservation (the wise use of natural resources) for current and future generations.

Concerned people should care because SWCDs offer a unique way for them to work together to plan and carry out activities that will make their area a better place to live. Such activities lead to sustainable communities, prudent land use, and the sound management and conservation of natural resources.

Conservation Districts were organized by local people to address local natural resource concerns. The local Board of Supervisors make all decisions regarding the District's programs and activities. These programs provide technical assistance, information, and education to assist people in the county to properly manage their natural resources.

Though all Soil & Water Conservation Districts are committed to conservation, each has its own special goals and objectives. Soil and Water Conservation Districts offer assistance in partnership with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, the local State Department of Natural Resources and the local the State Department of Agriculture by providing sound, solution based support that will contribute to the environmental enhancement of the community and region.

Locally led Soil & Water Conservation Districts are uniquely qualified to mold themselves to meet the local needs of their communities.

For over 65 years, conservation districts have worked in partnership with state and federal agencies and private organizations to deliver conservation assistance to private landowners nationwide. Known in various parts of the country by different names:

  • Resource Conservation Districts in California,
  • Soil Conservation Districts in most of the Northern Plains,
  • Soil & Water Conservation Districts in much of the Southeast/Midwest and Hawaii,
  • Conservation Districts on the East Coast and West Coast,
  • Natural Resources Districts in Nebraska, and
  • Land Conservation Departments in Wisconsin

The partnership among conservation districts, state and federal agencies and other groups are dedicated to working together for natural resource conservation, and delivery of programs designed to assist private landowners achieve their land management objectives. These districts all share a single mission: to coordinate assistance from all available sources -- public and private, local, state and federal -- in an effort to develop locally driven solutions to natural resource concerns such as:

  • implement farm conservation practices to keep soil in the fields and out of waterways;
  • conserve and restore wetlands, which purify water and provide habitat for birds, fish and numerous other animals.
  • protect groundwater resources;
  • plant trees and other land cover to hold soil in place, clean the air, provide cover for wildlife and beautify neighborhoods;
  • help developers and homeowners manage the land in an environmentally sensitive manner; and
  • reach out to communities and schools to teach the value of natural resources and encourage conservation efforts.

There are nearly 3000 conservation districts--one in almost every county. Now expanded to serve all the conservation needs of our nation, districts educate and help local citizens conserve land, water, forests, wildlife and other natural resources.

Click on your state to find a local office.