About Us

What we are

Conservation Districts are local governmental subdivisions established under New York State law to carry out a program for the conservation, use and development of soil, water and related resources.  Districts are resource management agencies, coordinating and implementing resource and environmental programs at the local level in cooperation with federal and state agencies.

District involvement includes, but is not limited to, work with landowners, land managers, local government agencies, and other local interests in addressing a broad spectrum of resource concerns:  erosion control, flood prevention, water conservation and use, wetlands, ground water, water quality and quantity, non-point source pollution, forestland protection, wildlife, recreation, waste water management and community development.


How we were established

The Cattaraugus County Soil & Water Conservation District was formed by an act of the Cattaraugus County Board of Supervisors (now the County Legislature) on April 24, 1941. However, the origin of the nation's Conservation Districts was in the 1930s when Congress enacted the Soil Conservation Act of 1935 in response to national concern over mounting erosion, floods and sky-blackening dust storms that swept across the country.  The act stated for the first time a national policy to provide a permanent program for the control and prevention of soil erosion, and directed the Secretary of Agriculture to establish the Soil Conservation Service to implement this policy.  The conservation district concept was developed to enlist the cooperation of landowners and occupiers in carrying out the programs authorized by the act.

To encourage local participation in the program, President Roosevelt sent all state governors A Standard State Soil Conservation Districts Law, with a recommendation for enactment of legislation along its lines.  On March 3, 1937, Arkansas became the first state to adopt a law modeled on the Standard Act.  On August 4, 1937, the first conservation district, the Brown Creek District included the birthplace of Dr. Hugh Hammond Bennett, the first Chief of the Soil Conservation Service - commonly referred to as the father of soil conservation.  By 1938, twenty-seven states had followed suit, and by the late 1940s, all fifty states had adopted similar legislation.  The New York State Conservation District Law was adopted in 1940.  Conservation District laws were adopted in the 1960s by Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands and in the 1980s by the District of Columbia, Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands.

Nationwide, there are approximately 3,000 conservation districts, the number varying from time to time as a result of the combination, division, or the other restructuring of district boundaries. These districts, identified in some states as soil conservation districts, conservation districts, natural resources conservation districts, natural resource districts or resource conservation districts, cover 98 percent of the privately owned land in the fifty states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, the Northern Marian Islands, and Guam.

In New York, there are 58 conservation districts, one representing each of 57 individual counties, and one which represents the five boroughs of New York City.  Collectively, the 58 districts are represented by the New York Association of Conservation Districts (NYACD).  The NYS Soil and Water Conservation Committee, headquartered in Albany, NY, coordinates county district activities and funding across the state. District employees may avail themselves to the NYS Soil and Water Conservation District Employee’s Association for a statewide perspective and local assistance.