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About Arizona's Conservation Districts
The Dust Bowl of the 1930s caused wide-spread soil erosion and loss of plant and animal crops across America’s Great Plains, crippling our nation’s food supply. In response to this crisis, President Roosevelt established a national policy on soil conservation and a governmental organization under the USDA in 1935 (the Soil Conservation Service, now called the Natural Resources Conservation Service), and in 1942, local subdivisions of this organization were created.
There are 42 Conservation Districts in Arizona: 32 are administered under state law and identified as Natural Resource Conservation Districts, while 10 are administered under tribal law and identified as Tribal Soil and Water Conservation Districts – collectively, “Conservation Districts” (or simply, “Districts”). With their formation, Conservation Districts were given broad authority including the power to:
Identify resource problems by surveys, research, and consultation with landowners
Coordinate planning to address resource problems among landowners and state and federal agencies
Obtain property or equipment and contract for the provision of technical and other services
Seek funding from various sources to support implementation of conservation practices
Conduct education and training programs for local landowners and other interests
Conservation Districts are the only organization in Arizona – local, state, or federal – with such broad authority to work on all types of natural resource conservation practices across all land ownership/usage types. All other government agencies are restricted to specific resources (e.g. water, wildlife) or land ownership/usage type (e.g. private, federal, state). In a state where a large percentage of the land is administered by federal agencies, Conservation Districts are uniquely positioned to represent the concerns of Arizona’s residents, especially those in small towns and rural areas, and to see that Arizona’s conservation interests are protected from outside interests or national policies.
The Districts serve state, private, federal, and tribal lands, administered by a Board of Supervisors. Each District sets priorities for their area and engages in conservation practices with their District Cooperators. (What's a Cooperator? Click here to learn more!)
What Conservation Districts Do
The Arizona Legislature has charged Arizona's Conservation Districts with the statutory responsibility (ARS Title 37 Public Lands, Chapter 6) to provide for the:
How Conservation Districts Came to Be A Brief History
1930s - The Dust Bowl devastates America’s cropland
1935 - Congress declares soil and water conservation a national priority (PL 46) & signs the Soil Conservation Act
1937 - President Franklin D. Roosevelt provides states with model legislation to create conservation districts
1941 - Arizona's Soil Conservation Districts are established: AZ Legislature authorizes enabling act A.R.S. 37-1001, et seq.
1944 - Arizona Association of Conservation Districts is established
1970 - Arizona’s Soil Conservation Districts are renamed Natural Resource Conservation Districts
1980s - Tribal Soil & Water Conservation Districts are formed under Tribal Council Law