Soil and Water Conservation Districts (SWCDs) are local units of government that manage natural resource programs at the local level. Districts work in urban and rural settings with landowners and other units of government to carry out programs for the conservation and enhancement of soil, water and other natural resources.
The mission of the Marion Soil and Water Conservation District is to protect, conserve and improve the quality of soil and water in Marion County through planning, technical assistance and education. In carrying out the District’s mission, the Marion SWCD works, coordinates and cooperates with:
- property owners and operators.
- public and private conservation organizations.
- agricultural groups.
- public agencies.
The Marion SWCD 2014 Strategic Plan provides a guideline to the district’s plan to meet it’s mission and goals. It is available to read in full, MarionSWCDStrategicPlanRevised2014.
The vision of the Marion SWCD is to:
- be viewed as a leader in soil and water conservation efforts.
- be a prominent resource in urban and rural areas.
- be a resource for natural resource and conservation related information.
- have a record of measurable and demonstrated results.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt addressed the problems of soil erosion in the nation in 1935 by establishing the Soil Conservation Service within the United States Department of Agriculture, through the Soil Conservation Act.
The Soil Conservation Service was charged with developing a program to conserve and enhance the nation’s soil and water resources. It was originally thought that the Soil Conservation Service could manage the nation-wide program but during the initial two years of operation it became clear that the task needed local support and direction.
The Soil Conservation Service needed farmer’s help and cooperation to put together an effective program. In 1937, President Roosevelt asked all state governors to promote legislation to create soil conservation districts. This began a partnership that exists today.
Oregon passed soil conservation district legislation in 1939 organizing the Oregon Soil Conservation Committee. This committee is now called the Soil and Water Conservation Commission. Its responsibility is to provide direction and assistance to individual districts and help coordinate their efforts.
The South Tillamook Soil Conservation District was the first district formed in Oregon. It was officially organized on Feb, 10, 1940. Since then, many other districts have formed, consolidated with other districts, redefined their boundaries and now are represented in every county of the state. Today there are 45 districts in Oregon, with Douglas, Grant, Josephine, Lake, Lane and Multnomah Counties having two districts each while Baker County has four.
Soil and Water Conservation Districts (SWCD) in Oregon are, by law, subdivisions of state government, but are also municipal corporations. Prior to 1963 conservation districts were soil conservation districts. In 1963 the legislature added water to the name.
Each SWCD is governed by a five or seven member Board of Directors. Each director is elected on the Oregon General Election ballot and serves a four year term. The directors oversee the activities and responsibilities of the district, boards, committees and employees as described in ORS 568.210 through 568.933.
Three conservation Districts were organize between 1947 and 1953 in Marion County in response to public demand. Public hearings were held to determine the needs and boundaries.
The three conservation Districts had offices in Stayton, Silverton and Mt. Angel; the Santiam SWCD hearing was held in Aumsville on May 29, 1947; the Silver Creek on April 23, 1948 and Mt. Angel on March 16, 1953.
The Districts were organized to work together on problems associated with flood control, riverbank stabilization, weed control, improvement of fertility and any other problems effecting the best use of land and water resources within Marion County.
After lengthy deliberation the three Districts decided to consolidate. A certificate of organization was issued by the Secretary of State on September 10, 1971 for the Marion Soil and Water Conservation District.
Soil and Water Conservation Commission
The Oregon legislature changed the name of the Soil Conservation Committee to the Soil and Water Conservation Commission in 1969. At that time the commission was considered a state agency. In 1981 the Oregon legislature incorporated the commission into the Oregon Department of Agriculture as the Soil and Water Conservation Division.
The commission was retained within the Soil and Water Conservation Division, but the new version of the commission became an advisory body lacking some of the policy-making authority it had previously. The 1989 legislature changed the name of the Soil and Water Conservation Division to the Natural Resources Division which retains the administrative responsibility for the commission.
The Soil and Water Conservation Commission is an advisory body consisting of seven SWCD directors who are voting members and who serve four year terms. They are limited to two consecutive terms of service. These members are appointed by the Director of the Oregon Department of Agriculture. In addition to the voting members, representatives from several agencies and organizations serve as advisers to the commission.
The advisers include representatives from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (formerly known as the Soil Conservation Service), the Farm Service Agency (formerly known as the Agriculture Stabilization and Conservation Service), the Oregon State University Extension Service, the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board and the Oregon Association of Conservation Districts. The chair of the commission must also serve on the Oregon Board of Agriculture, according to state statute.
The commission’s primary function is to coordinate the programs of the Oregon Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Farm Service Agency, Extension Service, Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board and Oregon Association of Conservation Districts with the needs of SWCD’s to assist them in effectively carrying out their statutory responsibilities. The commission also serves as an adviser to the director of the Oregon Department of Agriculture on natural resource issues.