Cooperatove Conservation Project

America’s Private Lands Conservation Partnership

The Original Cooperative Conservation Partnership

Location: National

Project Summary: Conservation Districts carry out natural resource management programs at the local level and work with more than 2.5 million cooperating landowners on nearly 98 percent of U.S. private lands.
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Man & two boys run for cover from dust storm
photo by Arthur Rothstein, (c) Library of Congress Photo 8/50
Resource Challenge

In the early 1930s, along with the greatest depression this nation ever experienced, came an ecological disaster known as the Dust Bowl. Following a severe and sustained drought in the Great Plains, the region's soil began to erode and blow away, creating huge black dust storms that blotted out the sun and swallowed the countryside. Thousands of “dust refugees” left the black fog to seek better lives. 


But the storms stretched across the nation. They reached south to Texas and east to New York. Dust even sifted into the White House and onto the desk of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

On Capitol Hill, while testifying about the erosion problem, soil scientist Hugh Hammond Bennett threw back the curtains to reveal a sky blackened by dust. Congress unanimously passed legislation declaring soil and water conservation a national policy and priority. Since about three-fourths of the continental United States is privately owned, Congress realized that only active, voluntary support from landowners would guarantee the success of conservation work on private land.

In 1937, President Roosevelt wrote the governors of all the states recommending legislation that would allow local landowners to form soil conservation districts. 





Examples of Key Partners

3,000 local Conservation Districts, USDA-NRCS, State conservation agencies, Resource Conservation and Development Councils (RC&Ds), thousands of private landowners   

Results and Accomplishments

Today Conservation Districts, local units of government established under state law to carry out natural resource management programs at the local level, work with more than 2.5 million cooperating landowners and operators to help them manage and protect land and water resources on nearly 98 percent of the private lands in the United States. 

For over 60 years, conservation districts have worked in partnership with state and federal agencies and private organizations to deliver conservation assistance to land users nationwide. The National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD) works closely with the National Conservation District Employees Association (NCDEA), National Association of State Conservation Agencies (NASCA) and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to provide national conservation leadership.

NASCA is a coalition of state conservation agencies across the country. These agencies provide guidance and funding for conservation districts. They operate numerous state environmental, sediment control, and soil erosion prevention programs.

NRCS is the federal government agency that works hand-in-hand with the American people to conserve natural resources on private lands. Formerly the Soil Conservation Service, NRCS brings 60 years of scientific and technical expertise to the Partnership.


The partnership among conservation districts, state and federal agencies and other groups was formalized in January 1993, when the leaders of NACD, NASCA and NRCS signed a national agreement pledging to work together for natural resource conservation. The agreement recognizes that partnership members have independent responsibilities for sustaining the environment and conserving the nation's natural resources. Yet, as partners in conservation, they are dependent upon one another for the successful delivery of programs that will help realize their common vision: A productive nation in harmony with a quality environment


The local/state/federal Conservation Partnership:

  •  Listens and responds to their customer's local resource conservation needs.  
  • Advocate a holistic, ecosystem-wide approach to conservation.  
  • Maintain and enhance grassroots conservation delivery systems.  
  • Build alliances with a wide variety of agencies and organizations.  
  • Foster economically viable environmental policies.

 People are the key to conservation district success.  Local people offer:


  • Extensive expertise and personal interest regarding the best ways to take care of their own natural resources.
  • Effective management of natural resources at the local level reduces the need for outside intervention and regulation.
  • Districts often have minimal budgets, and may not be able to meet their conservation goals without volunteer help.
  • Volunteers in education can help youths learn to be responsible stewards of the land.












Original local-federal cooperative conservation partnership

Project Contact
Christa Jones
Regional Representative
National Association of Conservation Districts
550 E Jefferson, Ste. 308
Franklin, IN 46131


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