Father of Soil Conservation

The roots of Soil and Water Conservation Districts in the United States started to materialize in the mid-1930s. According to Milton S. Heath, Jr. (2004) the idea of conservation districts was a result of leadership from Dr. Hugh Hammond Bennett; who is credited as being the “Father of Soil Conservation”. Dr. Bennett is a native of North Carolina.

Bennett-in-e.field-copy-2Bennett’s concern for the land and the mammoth losses of soil as a result of soil erosion dated back to 1905, when he and his soil survey partner, W. E. McLendon, developed a theory of sheet erosion, which is the insidious but large unseen washing away of thin layers of topsoil (Heath, 2004, p. 2). That very soil survey was taken in Louisa County, Virginia and was instrumental in Bennett’s understanding of the link between soil erosion and soil quality.

As a result of Bennett’s passion for soil conservation he eventually acquired $160,000 of federal funding in 1930 to be used specifically for “soil erosion investigations” (Heath, 2004). In 1933, the Soil Erosion Service (SES) was established within the Department of Interior, with Bennett serving as the first director.