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Creation of Conservation Districts

Following national recognition that wise soil and water conservation use serve as national policy, Hugh Hammond Bennett, knows as the father of soil & water conservation districts, understood the need for assistance at the local level.  Bennett advised Franklin Roosevelt on soil health and the fact "Americans in the nation's midsection had farmed too much, too fast" (Egan, 2006).  Bennett steadfastly educated leaders that the land could not withstand this type of assault, that the grasslands had be "hammered and left without cover" and that "dusters" were not an act of God but man and would continue to get worse (Egan, 2006).

As a result of Bennett's steadfast effort and Roosevelt's leadership, in 1936 a Standard State District Act, also referred to as "District Law," was developed at the federal government level by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) which encouraged the citizens of local governments to organize conservation districts as political subdivisions of state government. 

President Roosevelt wrote to each state governor, urging each to approve legislation that would create Soil and Water Conservation Districts.

The Soil Conservation District Program recognized that new farming methods must be accepted and enforced by the farmers on the land, giving local citizens the opportunity to shape soil and water conservation and resource planning in their communities. 

According to the USDA Handbook "The Preparation of the Standard State Conservation District Law," a conservation district was to be established by a majority vote of the farmers within a district's boundaries (USDA, 1990).  No district was to be formed without farmer approval through a referendum process.  To ensure buy-in, supervisors of the district were to be elected by the farmers themselves.  The intent was for the districts to function as "local units of government, established by the people, governed by the people through their elected supervisors" and then given authority to develop and carry out local erosion control plans district wide (USDA, 1990).  Today Kentucky's conservation districts supervisors are elected on the general ballot directly by their constituents within the district boundaries they serve. 

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