Looking back on RCD history

Following is a timeline spotlighting important resource conservation dates in the U.S. and Glenn County. Soil erosion and the Dust Bowl were the impetus behind the establishment of resource conservation services. If you are interested in learning more about the vital role of conservation districts in protecting our soil and water, read a brief history of the Natural Resources Conservation Services and get more detailed information about Universal Soil Loss Equation (USLE) in the U.S.


  dustbowl1   The “Yearbook of Agriculture” for 1934 announces, “Approximately 35 million acres of formerly cultivated land have essentially been destroyed for crop production. . . . 100 million acres now in crops have lost all or most of the topsoil; 125 million acres of land now in crops are rapidly losing topsoil. . . ” Great dust storms spread from the Dust Bowl area. The drought is the worst ever in U.S. history, covering more than 75 percent of the country, affecting 27 states severely, and causing major ecological and agricultural damage to American and Canadian prairie lands. The phenomenon was caused by severe drought coupled with decades of extensive farming without crop rotation, fallow fields, cover crops or other techniques to prevent wind erosion.

  Hugh-Bennett   Soil Conservation Service formed in the United States Department of Agriculture. Hugh Hammond Bennett, who led the soil conservation movement in the United States in the 1920s and 1930s, urged the nation to address the “national menace” of soil erosion, and created a new federal agency and served as its first chief — the Soil Conservation Service, now the Natural Resources Conservation Service in the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). He is considered today to be the father of soil conservation. According to the federal Soil Conservation Service, the bowl covered 100 million acres in 1935.

  soilConservationLawWEB   Soil Conservation Act of April 27, 1935, became law in response to the Dust Bowl in the Western United States and created the Soil Conservation Service at USDA. It is a United States federal law that allowed the government to pay farmers to reduce production so as to “conserve soil” and prevent erosion. The resulting Soil Conservation Act of April 27, 1935, created the Soil Conservation Service at USDA.

  1937   100307_franklin_roosevelt_ap_218   President Franklin Delano Roosevelt wrote a letter to the governors of all the states recommending legislation that would allow local landowners to form soil conservation districts. The movement caught on across the country and every state passed legislation enabling soil conservation districts to be formed. Farmers around the nation organized Soil Conservation Districts to work with the new Soil Conservation Service.

  1940s   CA-poppy-WEB   California’s Soil Conservation Districts were formed. Now known as Resource Conservation Districts, these special districts organized under Division 9 of the State’s Public Resources Code. All California Resource Conservation Districts operate with a Board of Directors made up of elected or appointed volunteer landowners in that district. Funded mainly with grants and donations, Resource Conservation Districts are not governed directly by the State, but are subject to state law requiring legal and open meetings, elections and certain responsibilities. Division 9 of the California Public Resources Code designates RCDs as special districts of the state. This is the portion of California Law that gives RCDs their roles and responsibilities.

  1960   Elk-Creek-SoilCD-mapSM-WEB   Elk Creek Soil Conservation District (SCD) was first established. The SCD included about 135,000 acres of land located between the town of Elk Creek and the Glenn-Colusa County Line. At first, the Director’s and SCD’s function was for the benefit of that community. But, with the able help of Robert Searway, Conservationist assigned to the SCD by the Federal Government, and Leonard Leoni, Field Representative of the State Division of Soil Conservation, a program of work was prepared and much more was accomplished. Conservation work completed the first year:

  • 3 stock water ponds
  • 45 acres brush clearing
  • 45 acres range seeding
  • 175 acres range fertilization
  • 160 acres cropping systems
  • A feasibility survey, plans and specifications for one state-size irrigation and stock watering reservoir
  • Assisted Mendocino National Forest with establishment of several dams
  • Cash on hand December 31, 1960 totaled $58.51

  1971   OwlSM-WEB   Soil Conservation Districts changed their name to, “Resource Conservation Districts” as they took on new challenges like wildlife habitat loss, invasive species, water and air pollution, and diminishing air and water quality.

  1989   glenn-cty-Spring-WEB   Glenn County Resource Conservation District was established, as an expansion of Elk Creek Soil Conservation District, to include all of Glenn County land.