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What are Conservation Districts?

Soil Conservation Districts were created after the devastating “Dust Bowl” of the 1930’s. This catastrophic event brought to the nation’s attention the need to conserve the quality of soil and renewable natural resources. President Franklin D. Roosevelt addressed these resource management issues by passing the Soil Conservation Act of 1935 and establishing a federal branch of government dedicated to natural resource conservation.

After only 2 years of managing natural resource conservation, the United States Department of Agriculture determined that projects and assistance should be addressed at the local level. Therefore, in 1939 Oregon Legislature passed legislation enabling the establishment of conservation districts throughout Oregon. These districts were then charged with leading programs to protect local, renewable, natural resources.

History of Clatsop County Soil and Water Conservation District

During the 30’s coastal Clatsop County residents were facing large “blow-outs” of sand from the dunes along the Pacific Ocean. These “blow-outs” were large amounts of sand being removed from strong gusts of wind and were a result of un-restricted grazing of livestock on dune grasses. Together the Civillian Conservation Corps (CCC), Clatsop County residents, and Soil Conservation Districts worked to stabilize the dunes.

Clatsop County formed two Soil Conservation Districts: Necanicum Soil Conservation District in November, 1940 and the Warrenton Dunes Soil Conservation District in March, 1941. These districts, along with the CCC began to stabilize the “blow-outs” by driving pickets into the sand in parallel fences. This grid of fences provided a barrier to catch sand, enabling dune formation. The two districts then planted European beach grass (Ammophila arenaria), Scotch broom (Cytisus scoparius) and shore pine (Pinus contorta) to re-establish vegetation along the coast. By July, 1944 the dunes had re-vegetated and stabilized.

Throughout the 40’s and 50’s federal and state governments worked to develop additional conservation efforts and continued to encourage conservation on the local level. In 1963 the Oregon Legislature added “and Water” to the name of Soil Conservation Districts. Consequently, Clatsop Soil and Water Conservation District (a county wide conservation district) was formed in October 1964.

The existing Necanicum SCD consolidated with Clatsop SWCD in March 1966 and Warrenton Dune SCD consolidated in March, 1972. Today, Clatsop SWCD is county wide and is able to provide free assistance to any resident of Clatsop County. Clatsop SWCD also works with municipal, state, and federal agencies to improve water quality and utilize the county’s renewable resources responsibly.

Today, Soil and Water Conservation Districts (SWCDs) exist in every county of the United States. The 45 Districts within the state of Oregon are considered subdivisions of state government, but function as individual, local, non-regulatory units. Each District is led by a locally-elected board of directors.

Why Clatsop SWCD is important:

  • Provides technical assistance to landowners to utilize their renewable resources, protect water quality, and meet their objectives.
  • Provides technical assistance to county, city, and public entities on problems involving erosion control, forest management, manure management, noxious vegetation control, and other natural resource issues.
  • Brings private, state, and federal dollars to Clatsop County to assist landowners with project implementation costs.
  • Works with local agencies, groups, and watershed councils to address landscape-scale natural resource concerns.
  • Provides educational opportunities for the public, professionals, and youth through workshops, public speaking, printed material, and student events.