Information for Districts
Useful information for local district programs is available through the links to the right.
The NC Division of Soil and Water Conservation is statutorily connected to NC's 96 local soil and water conservation districts through NC General Statute 139, and delivers its programs through the comprehensive district infrastructure.
Soil and water conservation districts and their governing boards of supervisors were formed nationwide based on enabling legislation passed by congress that grew out of the devastating Dust Bowl and other critical conservation problems of the 1930s. This federal legislation encouraged states to pass legislation for the establishment of local soil and water conservation districts. Dr. Hugh Hammond Bennett, a NC native from Anson County, was instrumental in raising awareness about soil erosion and can be credited for soil and water conservation programs around the nation today. When NC passed the Soil and Water Conservation Districts Law, the citizens of Anson County organized the Brown Creek Soil and Water Conservation District, the first district in the United States.
What is a district?
Under NC General Statue 139, soil and water conservation districts are organized as governmental subdivisions of the state, as well as independent political units. Districts work closely with county, state and federal governments and both public and private organizations in a non-regulatory capacity to carry out a comprehensive conservation program that protects and improves the county's natural resources while assisting private landowners in using conservation practices. This partnership has been the backbone of highly successful efforts over the past 75 years to address serious problems across the state including soil erosion, flood damage and water quality problems.
Purpose & Function
District law provides authority to districts to meet the needs of landowners and citizens in several ways.
- Deliver state programs administered by the division, including: the Agriculture Cost Share Program (ACSP), the Agricultural Water Resources Assistance Program (AgWRAP), Community Conservation Assistance Program (CCAP) and Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP).
- Deliver federal Farm Bill conservation programs involving water quality practices, farmland protection, wetlands restoration and wildlife habitat enhancement.
- Assist communities in many areas of natural resource management such as erosion and sediment control, source water protection, stormwater management, floodplain management and flood control, water use efficiency, stream restoration, open spaces and small-plot forestry management.
- Respond to natural disasters by helping local landowners and state and local governments with clean-up efforts and restoration including cropland and drainage system cleanup, repair of conservation best management practices, livestock mortality issues and waste management systems.
- Respond to projects of local interest such as conservation easements, environmental education centers, parks and demonstration farms.
The state's 96 local soil and water conservation district boundaries coincide with county borders with one exception; the Albemarle Soil and Water Conservation District. This district encompasses a five-county area, including Camden, Chowan, Currituck, Pasquotank and Perquimans counties.
Each district is governed by a five-member board of supervisors. Three supervisors are elected on the general ballot as non-partisan candidates during the regular election of county officers, and two are appointed by the NC Soil and Water Conservation Commission upon recommendation of the local district board of supervisors. An exception to this is the Albemarle Soil and Water Conservation Districts, which is guided by a board of 17 supervisors. All supervisors serve four-year terms and are the key to the success of their local district.
Scope of Work
The board of supervisors meets monthly to establish local soil and water conservation priorities based on the needs of the district. The board chairs work groups to address these priorities through the installation and implementation of best management practices that protect and improve the natural resources within the district. The work is accomplished by partnering with local, state and federal agencies; businesses; and non-profit organizations for technical and financial assistance. The board is also responsible for reviewing and approving district contracts for ACSP, AgWRAP and CCAP. The Division of Soil and Water Conservation administers ACSP, AgWRAP and CCAP, and holds each local board of supervisors accountable to these state programs.
Local districts receive funding from federal, state and local governments and independent fund-raising efforts. Funding sources include:
- Local - most districts receive funding from their county government that may include appropriations that fund office space, personnel and equipment, as well as specific conservation programs and projects.
- State - North Carolina provides technical and administrative assistance and some equipment through the Division of Soil and Water Conservation. Financial assistance is also provided by the state and administered by the NC Soil and Water Conservation Commission with staff assistance from the division. Funding is available through:
- matching funds to districts
- Agriculture Cost Share Program
- Community Conservation Assistance Program
- special project funds
- Federal - the Natural Resource Conservation Service provides personnel, technical assistance and equipment in support of district conservation programs, and may also provide financial assistance through federally initiated conservation programs implemented through local districts.
- Independent Fund-Raising - many districts raise money through grant-writing or activities such as selling tree saplings and conservation materails, or renting equipment such as no-till drills.
Note: all funds received by a district are public monies. As a governmental body, each district must properly administer and account for all funds.