From Dust Came Soil Conservation (2017)

How does North Carolina tie into the Dust Bowl?

North Carolina (Wadesboro) is home to the Father of Soil Conservation, Dr. Hugh Hammond Bennett. Dr. Bennett spent decades studying soils across the US and abroad. He became convinced that soil erosion was “the biggest problem confronting the farmers of the Nation over a tremendous part of its agricultural lands.” Soil conservation became his life’s work.

In 1935, Dr. Bennett started tracking a large dust storm moving from Oklahoma towards Washington, D.C. He spoke before Congress while a runner brought updates of the storm’s location. At the pivotal point, he threw open the window and the dust flew in. He said, “Gentlemen, that is Oklahoma.” Congress passed the Soil Conservation Act.

Why did he recommend soil and water conservation districts?

Dr. Bennett understood he needed a system of farmer advocates who would spread the “locally led” conservation message. He developed a list of best practices and secured federal resources to establish the Soil Conservation Service.

Dr. Bennett’s Drive for Soil Conservation lives on

Soil and water conservation is all about voluntary conservation on private lands. The partnership doesn’t regulate farming practices. Instead, we offer a suite of services to promote farming in a sustainable and environmentally friendly manner. Want to keep your field from eroding into the stream? Plant some ground cover and fence the cattle out of the creek. Want to increase your soil productions? Test your soils and apply fertilizer at the appropriate rates. We “help people help the land,” because the farmer is the first conservationist.

Soil and water conservation best practices keep sediment out of the creek and keeps fertilizers in place to grow the crops. Over 90% of the land in North Carolina is privately owned, and these working lands support ecosystem services that provide clean water, quality air, and good foods. Soil and water conservation districts are the core of landscape-scale conservation.

Soil and water conservation districts also offer natural resource management tools in cities. Ever notice the muck that accumulates in parking lots? By developing and utilizing urban best practices for storm water, we can limit the movement of pollutants into our waterways. Everyone downstream benefits, from good fish habitats to cheaper water bills.

The local soil and water conservation districts set county priorities for allocating resources and offer free technical services to the most pressing natural resource issues. The districts are supported by their state partner in the NC Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the Division of Soil and Water Conservation.

The conservation partnership is supported by additional groups and businesses that unify their efforts through the NC Foundation for Soil and Water Conservation. We offer a way to make a difference for agriculture organizations like NC Farm Bureau, NC Forestry Association; utility providers like Duke Energy and electric co-ops; business entities like farm credits; and private citizens. All of these interests come together with soil and water conservation districts to support natural resource management in a meaningful way.

We’ve come a long way since the Dust Bowl, but it’s still important that we do everything we can to help those who cultivate the earth do so in a responsible manner. It can take up to 500 years to create one inch of soil, so we have to think big when it comes to soil conservation.

While the Albemarle-Pamlico National Estuary Partnership's ecosystem-based management approach means that the interconnected nature of air, water, and terrestrial ecosystem components is recognized and incorporated into the organization's Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan (CCMP). CCMP Actions that focus on soil conservation alongside protection of aquatic resources include:

  1. Facilitate the protection of natural forest buffers to reduce runoff;
  2. Facilitate the use of best management practices on agricultural and forest lands;
  3. Facilitate the development and implementation of coordinated landscape-scale hydrological restoration strategies;
  4. Facilitate efforts to improve collaborations to protect and restore ecosystem processes. The action of private individuals, supported by government expertise and resources, is critical to protect and restore the ecosystem.
  5. Outputs: Workshops and engagement materials on land conservation. Results: Increase in protected lands through easements, better management, or other methods.

Source: From Dust Came Soil Conservation (2017)
By Michelle Lovejoy, Executive Director, via Albemarle-Pamlico National Estuary Partnership

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