About WCSWCD

Soil and Water Conservation Districts are comprised of community leaders who respond to local natural resource concerns. We accomplish this through the delivery of technical assistance, education and outreach to public and private landowners in a non-regulatory fashion. We promote the conservation and sustainable use of natural resources, often collaborating with federal, state and local partners.

Aleta McKeage, M.S. Technical Director

History of Waldo County Soil and Water Conservation District

The roots of the Waldo County Soil and Water Conservation District, as do the roots of all conservation districts, go back to the Dust Bowl of the 1930’s: America’s greatest ecological blunder. Creation of the Dust Bowl took only 50 years to accomplish and was done by the most highly organized technological civilization in the world.

USDA photo, Dust Bowl 1937

“It cannot be blamed on illiteracy, or over population or social disorder,” writes Donald Worster, (Dust Bowl, 1979, Oxford University Press). “It came about because the culture was operating in precisely the way it was supposed to. Americans blazed their way across a richly endowed continent with a ruthless, devastating efficiency unmatched by any people anywhere. When the white men came to the plains they talked expansively of ‘busting’and ‘breaking’ the land. And that is exactly what they did. Some environmental catastrophes are nature’s work; others are the slowly accumulating effects of ignorance or poverty. The Dust Bowl, in contrast was the inevitable outcome of a culture that deliberately, self-consciously, set itself that task of dominating and exploiting the land for all it was worth.”

The public’s response to the horror it had wrought was the creation of the Soil Conservation Service and the establishment of a unique local-state-federal partnership of organizations aimed at proper use and conservation of the nation’s soil and water resources.

The unique partnership is still in operation today and it remains the only such partnership. In no other area do all three levels of government work so closely. The federal government provides technical and support services through the Natural Resources Conservation Service. The states and the local government are provided with the power to use that support, but are left to their own devices as to how to use the assistance available.

The result is 50 different state soil and water conservation agencies, each one structured so as to best respond to the conservation problems in that state. Beneath them are hundreds of local conservation districts, each one a state-chartered unit of local government, each one different, each one able to make its own decisions.

 

The Waldo County Soil and Water Conservation District is one of these local units of government. Its mandate is to provide conservation assistance to all landowners and users within its borders. While Waldo County has never faced the conditions experienced in the Dust Bowl, conservation is no less important here.

Under the Maine Soil Conservation Act of 1941, the Waldo County Soil and Water Conservation District was founded by Hezzie R. Ward and John H. Edgerly in 1944, and since then has grown from a few farmer cooperators to over 600 land owner cooperators, many of who are non-farm people.

Mr. Ward and Mr. Edgerly both were concerned about soil erosion going on in the county and talked to other farmers and landowners to see if enough people were interested in forming a Conservation District. There was considerable interest in conserving the soil and water resources of Waldo County, and Ward and Edgerly had no trouble finding enough landowners willing to sign the application and statement to form a soil conservation district.

Today there are 16 Soil and Water Conservation Districts in Maine with the Waldo County District being the smallest (497,280 acres of land and fresh water areas) yet one of the most diversified in natural resources.

Soil erosion control on cropland is still a concern of the District as it was in 1944, but today’s supervisors and programs offer a broader range of conservation and resource assistance.

As the population of Waldo County continues to change from large production farms to smaller scale start-up and organic farms and urban area, the conservation needs of the people are also changing. To serve the people and their varying resource needs our District has set up standing committees to deal more effectively in areas of rural-urban affairs, forestry, legislation and others. Each District is led by a five-member Board of Supervisors each serving a three year term. Three of the positions are elected, and two are appointed by the State of Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry. In addition, the District appoints Associate Supervisors to give more people a chance for leadership in conservation, and has placed more emphasis on conservation education. These are only a few ways we are attempting to promote wise management of both human and natural resources. Much work has been done and the future continues to challenge us.

It is in this spirit that we extend an invitation to anyone who is interested in learning more about the district to stop in at our office at 46 Little River Dr. in Belfast, or give us a call at 207-218-5311, or contact kym.sanderson@me.nacdnet.net.