Cheyenne, OK – Congressman Frank Lucas (OK-03) on Wednesday joined Congressional Western Caucus Chairman Dan Newhouse (WA-04), Senate Western Caucus Chairman Steve Daines (MT), and Reps. Don Bacon (NE-02), Bruce Westerman (AR-04), and Sanford Bishop (GA-02) introduced a bicameral and bipartisan resolution to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD) and honor the locally-led, collaborative conservation efforts they deploy throughout the United States.
“For 75 years, local, voluntary conservation efforts led by the National Association of Conservation Districts have provided for the conservation of our communities’ natural resources, enabled farmers and ranchers to revitalize millions of acres of farmland, and promoted responsible solutions to mitigate the impact of climate change,” said Congressman Lucas. “Following the devastation of the Dust Bowl, Oklahoma’s 84 conservation districts and the Oklahoma Conservation Commission have provided critical care to Oklahoma’s land. I’m proud to support the mission of the National Association of Conservation Districts and look forward to many more years of locally-led conservation efforts providing responsible care of America’s natural resources.
“In rural America and across the United States, we recognize the need for voluntary, locally-led conservation leadership,” said Chairman Newhouse. “For 75 years, conservation districts have answered that call, working with states, local land managers, tribes, and other partners to ensure responsible management of our lands, waters, and wildlife. This bicameral, bipartisan resolution indicates both our strong support for NACD’s continued mission and a commitment to lifting up the efforts of local districts and conservationists throughout the communities we represent.”
“For 75 years, the National Association of Conservation Districts has successfully led efforts to bring together diverse groups from farmers and ranchers to energy workers to promote commonsense conservation,” said Chairman Daines. “In Montana, our conservation districts played a crucial role in the voluntary, proactive sage grouse conservation that aided in the species recovery, preventing the bird from becoming endangered. I look forward to many more years of collaboration and working together with the NACD.
In the 1930s Oklahoma was included in a roughly-defined geographic area and cataclysmic environmental event known jointly as the Dust Bowl. Climatic events, farming techniques and governmental policies combined to create the disaster of the Dust Bowl. Long droughts allowed high winds to blow unprotected soil into clouds of dust so thick they blotted out the sun. Valuable topsoil blew away making it nearly impossible to grow crops. People and animals choked on the dust and suffered and even died. Ironically, the Dust Bowl was a time of some of the most devastating flood events in the state, with no plant life in place to hold back the water when rain did come. Many moved away from Oklahoma and the area worst affected.
In February 1937 President Franklin D. Roosevelt sent to all states a model law that would allow a referendum of landowners and operators to create soil conservation districts. Soil conservation districts would allow local people to set priorities and make decisions about practices to conserve soil and water resources. Technical assistance would be provided by a federal agency originally created as the Soil Erosion Service in 1933, renamed as the Soil Conservation Service in 1935 and today are known as the Natural Resources Conservation Service, an agency within the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
In April 1937 Oklahoma passed the Conservation District Enabling Act, giving citizens the opportunity to form their own conservation districts. The same Act created the agency known today as the Oklahoma Conservation Commission.
Today the entire state is divided into conservation districts, usually, but not always, along county lines. Conservation districts are legal subdivisions of state government, whose primary goal is to assist citizens in practicing wise use and management of the state’s renewable natural resources, especially its soil and water.
Conservation districts continue to assist farmers and ranchers as in the past, but today also assist a larger segment of the public including community planners, public health officials, developers and rural and urban citizens. Districts also provide a variety of education materials and opportunities for students.
Read the full text of the resolution here.