It started with a disaster.
In the 1930's a severe drought combined with poor dryland farming methods to create extreme dust storms that blew away the topsoil of much of America's plains.
It created a vicious cycle. As the drought worsened, more farmland was destroyed and the unanchored soil blew away, worsening the drought. These black clouds of dust blew as far as New York and Washington, D.C.
It was an environmental disaster that we now know as the Dust Bowl. And what we also now know is that it was caused in large part by poor farming practices and the conversion of arid grassland to cultivated crops.
So we got together and decided to fix it.
During President Franklin D. Roosevelt's first 100 days in office in 1933, his administration quickly initiated programs to conserve soil and restore the ecological balance of the nation. One of those initiatives was to create groups of local ranchers to promote soil health and conservation practices.
The idea, and we think it was a good one, was that locals knew what would be best in their area, and that they would be the best people to convince their neighbors to implement soil health practices.
In 1937, President Roosevelt encouraged Montana to adopt legislation enabling the creation of local soil conservation districts.
The State Montana passed legislation creating its conservation districts in 1939 to provide for local control of natural resource management programs and activities.
Montana’s 58 conservation districts cover all counties and include more than 70 municipalities within district boundaries.
That's the year Montana's first conservation districts were formed.
The Wibaux and Sheridan Conservation Districts officially formed within a minute or two of each other.
We've been working on Montana's natural resource concerns ever since.
Some of the things Conservation Districts provide:
Many CDs have purchased various farm equipment, like no-till drills and tree planters that they rent at low costs to area landowners.
Some CDs also sell trees at cost from the Montana Seedling Nursery to help producers install conservation plantings and shelterbelts.
Plus we protect streams
When Montana passed the Natural Streambed and Land Preservation Act of 1972, Conservation Districts were entrusted with implementing the 310 Law.
This law requires a permit from the local conservation district before any work is done in or near a streambed. This ensures that Montana's rivers and streams are protected in their natural character as much as possible.