Mahoning Soil and Water Conservation District
How Did Soil and Water Conservation Districts Come To Be Formed?
Although many soil conservation activities occurred in the United States in the 1920's, it wasn't until the 1930's that actions became serious. On May 12, 1934, the worst dust storm in the nation's history swept eastward from the Great Plains to the Atlantic Ocean, obscuring the sun and depositing obvious films of dust as it moved. This catastrophic storm served as the catalyst for public outcry and congressional action for soil and water conservation throughout the nation.
On April 27,1935, Congress passed and President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Soil Conservation Act of 1935, Public Law No.46, which established the Soil Conservation Service (SCS)1 within United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The new soil and water conservation thrust originated with the federal government working directly with landowners, primarily farmers. Farmers previously had little direct contact with USDA, and they were still very skeptical of federal involvement. Hugh H. Bennett, Chief of SCS; M.L. Wilson, Director of the federal Cooperative Extension Service; and Phil Glick, legal counsel in USDA, recognized the fragility inherent in this direct relationship between the federal government and local landowners. They realized that the future trust and long-term cooperation of landowners would depend upon a linkage of and involvement with federal, state, or local government. Because of their efforts, Congress passed a resolution, which the President signed, calling for states to become the conduit for soil and water conservation assistance from USDA to landusers through enactment of a law establishing a state soil conservation agency and procedures whereby local soil and water conservation districts could be organized.
By the end of 1937, 22 states had enacted such a law, but Ohio's attempt to secure enactment in 1939 failed because of reluctant support of agricultural leadership in the state. As the decade of the 1940's began, world conflicts were bringing our nation closer to war each passing month and intense pressures were developing on farmers to increase food production on the land they managed. The 94th General Assembly retained soil conservation on its agenda, and on May 16, 1941 passed House Bill 646, which became the Ohio Soil Conservation District Enabling Act when it was signed by Governor John W. Bricker on June 5, 1941. This Act created the Ohio Soil Conservation Committee (OSCC) as an agency of the State of Ohio with offices at The Ohio State University (OSU). The Act also established procedures for the formation of local soil conservation districts, and the election of local district boards of supervisors in addition to defining the authorities and responsibilities of these local district boards and OSCC.
The Mahoning SWCD was organized in June 1950 as the 82nd district in Ohio. Strong agriculture, combined with a large urban population, created a need for the Mahoning District to deal with a wide variety of land use situations. Current priorities include strong conservation education, nonpoint source pollution incentive programs, watershed protection and coordination, and technical assistance with soil, drainage, local construction, ponds and urban issues.
1 The Soil Conservation Service (SCS) is now the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). This organization is still under the umbrella of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).