Article written by the Minnesota Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts
For 80 years, soil and water conservation districts (SWCDs) throughout Minnesota have been dedicated to protecting and improving the state’s natural resources.
First created in Minnesota in 1937, SWCDs initially served as a bridge to the federal government. Today, SWCDs bridge the gap between local, state and federal conservation efforts, and the collective work of these districts has changed the state’s landscape for the better.
SWCDs are local government units that are part of a broader system, bringing programs from the federal and state levels into their communities to help landowners make a difference on the landscape on a voluntary basis. SWCD staff members are responsible for rolling out state and federal initiatives, serving as the friendly local face of conservation efforts for landowners and helping determine how these initiatives impact the land and people locally. SWCDs across the state vary greatly in the type of land and populations that they serve, and are empowered to evaluate how to best implement conservation efforts in their area.
“From One Watershed One Plan to the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program, SWCD team members across the state are putting infrastructure in place in their local communities to improve Minnesota’s remarkable natural resources,” said Kurt Beckstrom, president of the Minnesota Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts (MASWCD). “They are the technical experts and the boots on the ground who understand their specific communities’ needs and help landowners navigate voluntary conservation programs from start to finish.”
SWCDs are locally led by citizen members, with boards that are passionate about conservation. They focus on building community relationships and collaborate with private landowners to conserve and protect the state’s land and water resources. Each SWCD team is created to meet the needs of its community with experts in areas ranging from native grass and wetland restoration to urban storm management depending on the community’s landscape.
Community engagement is a critical component of SWCDs. Districts across the state work hard to inform landowners about how they can carry out effective conservation programs. SWCD staff and board members live in the communities that they serve, making them a respected local resource. State regulations are increasingly complex, and SWCDs have the infrastructure to help citizens understand how changing policies impact their land and water.
Minnesotans love the environment, and the more landowners know about conservation the better decisions they will make. Luckily, Minnesota’s SWCDs – strategically situated across the state – are there to help. A lot has changed in the last eight decades, but one thing that has not changed is the local, neighborly presence of SWCDs in every Minnesota community.
“SWCDs join Minnesota landowners in taking great pride in the state’s natural resources and place a high value on conserving and protecting them for future generations to enjoy,” said LeAnn Buck, executive director of MASWCD. “This shared commitment is essential to our history of successful public-private partnerships statewide.”