What is a Conservation District?

A Brief History

Conservation Districts were first formed as local grassroots groups to encourage farm conservation planning in response to the dust bowl in the 1930’s.  The idea behind these small local groups was that they would know best how to handle local soil and water problems in their own areas.  The emphasis of these groups was to educate landowners about wise land use and proper soil stewardship.  Technical conservation expertise was made available to all landowners through the U.S.D.A. Soil Conservation Service.  The Conservation District Board was made up of farmer volunteers who directed the local program.  Often these pioneer directors spent time convincing their neighbors to adopt conservation measures to save their topsoil and keep local streams sediment- and nutrient-free.  The movement that these pioneer directors started was very catchy considering that there are Conservation Districts in every state in the union. In Pennsylvania, districts follow county boundaries.

Today’s District

Today Conservation Districts are still made up of volunteers committed to the conservation movement.  Encouraging farm conservation planning and proper management of soil and water resources is still the backbone of the District’s program.  Today, however, an awareness of increasing environmental problems has expanded the District’s programs to include conservation education in schools, urban and rural erosion and sedimentation control programs, storm water management and several nonpoint source pollution programs.  The District Board continues to direct the local program and continues to emphasize conservation education and water quality issues.