Conservation districts started in the 1930s when Congress, in response to national concern over mounting erosion, floods, and the sky-blackening dust storms that swept across the country, enacted the Soil Conservation Act of 1936. The act stated for the first time a national policy to provide a permanent program for the control and prevention of soil erosion, and directed the Secretary of Agriculture to establish the Soil Conservation Service (today the Natural Resource Conservation Service) to implement this policy. The conservation district concept was developed to voluntarily enlist the cooperation of landowners and users of natural resources in programs authorized by the act. To encourage local participation in the program, President Roosevelt sent all state governors a Standard State Soil Conservation District Law, with a recommendation for enactment of legislation along its lines. On March 3, 1937, Arkansas became the first state to adopt a law modeled on the Standard Act. By 1938, twenty-seven states had followed suit, and by the late 1940s all forty-eight states had adopted similar legislation. The Territory of Alaska enacted enabling legislation in 1947 and the Wasilla Soil and Water Conservation District was the first to organize in 1949. Districts laws were adopted in the 1960s by Puerto Rico and the Virgin Island, and by the 1980s by the District of Columbia, Guam, and the Northern Mariana Island.
We are one of 12 Soil & Water Conservation Districts in the state of Alaska. There are approximately 3,000 Soil & Water Conservation Districts nationwide. More that 15,000 volunteers serve in elected or appointed positions on Conservation Districts governing boards, and they work directly with more than 2.3 million cooperation land owners nationwide to conserve and develop more than 778 million acres of private land.
The districts in the State of Alaska are represented by the Alaska Association of Conservation Districts, which is a formally organized non-profit corporation that helps our districts to do collectively what is difficult for them to do independently. It provides administrative support to districts as they receive and expend funds to carry out local programs.