In 1937 Congress developed a model conservation district law for all states to consider, primarily as a result of the devastation of the “Dust Bowl” in the 1930’s. In 1939, the Oregon Legislature passed the Soil Conservation District Law (ORS 568.210 to 568.808), which established a State Soil Conservation Committee. Since most financial and technical resources came from the USDA at the time, the initial focus of conservation districts was in rural areas, primarily production agriculture. Naturally, the first elected district directors were farmers and ranchers. Oregon now has 46 soil and water conservation districts, a much broader conservation mandate, and a diverse range of landowners, managers, and citizens serving on district boards.
The Sauvie Island Soil Conservation District was established in 1944 to direct agricultural producers to technical assistance and other resources to help them care for their land. The District expanded to its current size in April 1975 and changed to its existing name. District voters approved a tax base in November 2006, ensuring a stable revenue source for programs delivered to west side citizens beginning in fiscal year 2007-2008.
In recent years, our partners at the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) and the District have successfully partnered to plan and implement conservation practices on private lands in the basin.
1. In 1939 the Oregon Legislature passed ORS 568, creating the mechanism through which soil conservation districts could be established.
2. Sixty-five (65) conservation districts have been formed over the years beginning with South Tillamook in January, 1940, to the last consolidation in 1988. Oregon now has 46 districts.
3. During this time period, districts received limited funding from the legislative budget and ODA, local fundraising efforts, and grants. USDA provided most of the technical assistance.
4. In 1984, Yamhill SWCD was the first district to receive voter approval for a local tax base, which provided stable funding for operations and local technical assistance.
5. The Oregon Department of Agriculture, working with SWCDs was given the primary responsibility to meet Clean Water Standards and state water quality standards in agricultural areas.
6. In 1993 the Oregon Legislature passed Senate Bill 1010, creating the Agricultural Water Quality Management Program, which identified a major role and workload for SWCDs.
7. SWCDs work with Local Advisory Committees to develop local area agricultural water quality management plans. SWCDs were identified as primary implementers of these plans, which require long-term district commitment and involvement to meet expectations.
8. The interests of districts and the public’s expectations for SWCDs has broadened to include resource concerns about not only soil and water but invasive species, noxious weeds, energy, air quality, wetlands, open spaces, urban conservation, endangered species, and others. Consequently the increased responsibilities have caused district officials to assume a greater leadership role in natural resource management in their communities.