Managing Our Natural Resources, 6e, Camp - 19

A History of Conservation in the United States

Courtesy of the Natural Resources Conservation Service

ChAptEr 2

Scattered attempts at soil conservation were made. Hillside "ditching" campaigns were tried, and individual farmers established good farming practices on
their own land. These attempts were the exception, not the rule. Between 1607
and the mid-1800s, first tobacco, then corn, and then cotton were our main farm
crops. All of these crops can be very hard on the soil. Since the 1600s, we have
lost at least one-third of our precious topsoil to erosion.
In general, early attempts at soil conservation in this country were quite limited. For a long time, soil conservation merely meant the prevention of the most
obvious erosion. Soil surveys conducted by the Bureau of Soils of the United
States Department of Agriculture began to show the results of erosion by the early
1900s. (Soil surveys will be explained in Chapter 4.)
Dr. Hugh H. Bennett was an early advocate of soil conservation. His work in
soil surveys in Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina convinced him that
something must be done. In 1928, he and W. R. Chapline published the United
States Department of Agriculture's (USDA) first soil conservation bulletin, Soil
Erosion-A National Menace.
As a result of Bennett's efforts, Congress established a series of soil erosion
research stations under his supervision. Bennett later concluded that enough soil
was being washed away from American fields to load a string of freight trains
that would stretch around the earth 18 times at the equator! Congress and the
American people were convinced.
In 1933, the Soil Erosion Service (SES) was established in the Department of
the Interior. Tied in with the economic recovery from the Great Depression, the
SES directed much of its effort toward erosion control. In 1935, the Soil Erosion
Service was moved to the Department of Agriculture. In that same year, it became
the Soil Conservation Service (SCS). Today, this agency is known as the Natural
Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).
Experience showed that farmers were more likely to accept conservation practices if they were directly involved in planning and decision making. This gave
rise to the concept of the soil conservation association. In 1937, the Secretary of
Agriculture mandated that all SCS work on private land be done only through
such associations. In that way, the farmers themselves would be responsible for

19

FIguRE 2-4 Severely eroded

farm site in the 1930s.



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Managing Our Natural Resources, 6e, Camp

Contents
Managing Our Natural Resources, 6e, Camp - Cover1
Managing Our Natural Resources, 6e, Camp - Cover2
Managing Our Natural Resources, 6e, Camp - i
Managing Our Natural Resources, 6e, Camp - ii
Managing Our Natural Resources, 6e, Camp - iii
Managing Our Natural Resources, 6e, Camp - iv
Managing Our Natural Resources, 6e, Camp - v
Managing Our Natural Resources, 6e, Camp - Contents
Managing Our Natural Resources, 6e, Camp - vii
Managing Our Natural Resources, 6e, Camp - viii
Managing Our Natural Resources, 6e, Camp - ix
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