- Special Sections
In the 1930s the U.S. experienced some of the worst dust storms recorded in history. Protection of topsoil became a priority and as a result, soil and water conservation districts (SWCDs) were formed so landowners could work together at the local level to solve a major problem. With the emphasis on "going green" these days, soil and water conservation districts are as important as ever.
Just what is a soil and water conservation district?
SWCDs are a subdivision of state government, like a county or school district. The program and plan of work of the district is developed according to the local needs of the district.
SWCDs are landowner operated and are brought into existence by a vote of those landowners within the boundaries of a district. It is administered by a board of five directors who are elected by their fellow landowners. Elections are held once a year in soil and water conservation districts. Directors are elected for a four-year term. Sometime between September 30 and October 16 each year, agricultural landowners in each of the districts over the state assemble in conventions and elect their representative on the district's board of directors. By rotating the elections in subdivisions, one or two directors' terms expire each year. Only agricultural landowners may vote or qualify as directors.
The Nolan County SWCDs board of directors are Ralph E. Stirl, JC Stroman, Jr., Don Campbell, Mark Wright and Johnny Ussery.
So what does this board of directors do?
The elected board members have the responsibility to develop a program and plan of work. The program is actually an inventory of the land and water resources and problems of the district. It describes the actual conditions bearing on land and its use. The plan of work discusses land capabilities, physical conditions and socio-economic conditions creating conservation problems. Conservation needs and treatment, as well as district policy, are outlined in the document. The program and plan of work also details solutions to problems and resources available to accomplish district objectives.
Soil and water conservation districts do not aim toward power. They work to bring about the widespread understanding of the needs of soil and water conservation. In addition, they work to activate the efforts of public and private organizations and agencies into a united front to combat soil and water erosion and to enhance water quality and quantity in the state.
It is the purpose of soil and water conservation districts to instill in the minds of local people that it is their individual responsibility to do the job of soil and water conservation. SWCDs receive assistance from many sources. But with all this help, farmers, ranchers, communities and other individuals must exercise a voluntary initiative in applying a conservation program compatible with their own objectives.