History Overview

The Dust Bowl brought to the nation’s attention the need to conserve soil and other natural resources. The National Industrial Recovery Act was passed in June 1933, and included funds to fight soil erosion. April 27, 1935, President Franklin D. Roosevelt addressed the “National Menace” of soil erosion by championing the passage of the Soil Conservation Act, which established the Soil Conservation Service within the United States Department of Agriculture. In February 1937, President Roosevelt promoted legislation to be implemented at the state level, saying: “To supplement the federal programs and safeguard their results, state legislation is needed.” In response, The Oregon Legislature passed a Soil Conservation District Law on August 5, 1939, charged with directing programs to protect local renewable natural resources. A Soil Conservation committee was created, and Soil Conservation Districts began, forming partnerships that still exist today.

History Timeline

On July 1, 1981, the Oregon Legislature had merged the Soil Water Conservation Commission with the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA), forming a Soil & Water Conservation division of the ODA. This division provides administrative oversight for the Soil & Water Conservation Districts. Today, it is known as the Natural Resources Division.

​In 1994, the USDA Soil Conservation Service was changed to the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and is a vital partner in conservation efforts.

“Past, Present, and Future of Conservation Districts”

A 10-minute mini-documentary details the inception of America’s conservation districts following the Dust Bowl of the 1930s and follows them throughout the ages as they’ve grown and strengthened from coast to coast.

From the Archives

Perhaps no event did more to emphasize the severity of the erosion crisis in the popular imagination than the Dust Bowl. Beginning in 1932, persistent drought conditions on the Great Plains caused widespread crop failures and exposed the region’s soil to blowing wind.

The Soil Conservation Act was passed April 27, 1935, amid the Dust Bowl, leading to the creation of the Soil Conservation Service, now NRCS.

A huge dust storm moves across the land during the Dust Bowl of the 1930s.

“What would be the feeling of this Nation should a foreign nation suddenly enter the United States and destroy 90,000 acres of land, as erosion has been allowed to do in a single county?” – H.H. Bennett, NRCS’ first Chief.

Willamette Valley Farm.

Eugene and Valleys in the 1960s.

Riparian Restoration Priority in the 1960s.

Early Agriculture Irrigation in the 1960s.

Eugene in the 1960s.

Pasture land on Munn Farm near EWEB canal diverting water from the McKenzie River (1966).

View of Farm land benefiting from Hulbert Lake Project in 1968.

1969 Jackson Farm drain line installation project.

Flooding in the 1960s.

1966 Mink Farm daily farming operations.