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Soil Conservation Districts Free Advice from Top Professionals!


by Katherine O. Rizzo It started with the Dust Bowl; that phenom-


enon of the 1930s that dried out the Great Plains and rained dust in Washington, DC. From that dust, the country’s Soil Conserva- tion Districts were formed to improve, protect and conserve natural resources on private lands through cooperative partnerships among fed- eral, state and county agencies. T e profession- als who work within these agencies are readily on hand to assist farm and land owners across the country to preserve their property, and the assistance is free!


The Dust Bowl In the early 1900s, Americans headed west


searching for more land and found the vast open grasslands of America’s Great Plains. What these new farmers did not realize how- ever, was that their eastern farming methods were not suitable for the dry weather of the mid-west. T e deep plowing methods and new engine driven farming machinery displaced the native grasses of the plains that trap topsoil and hold moisture. Within a decade of farming with eastern methods, the Great Plains simply dried up. With nothing to hold the topsoil in place, winds across the fl at ground created the “black blizzards” that traveled as far east as New York City and Washington, DC. In 1933, during President Franklin D. Roos-


evelt’s fi rst 100 days, the U.S. Congress passed and Roosevelt signed into law the National In- dustrial Recovery Act of 1933. T is act funded the Soil Erosion Service (headed by soil con- servation pioneer Hugh H. Bennett) under Interior Secretary Harold L. Ickes. T e orga- nization was designed to help farmers combat the drought and rebuild the topsoil. In 1935 the SES was transferred to the Department of Agriculture and reorganized into the Soil Con- servation Service. Under FDR’s later New Deal plan, in 1936 the U.S. Congress passed the Soil Conservation and Domestic Allotment Act. T e Soil Conservation Service continued to


grow and create various programs to help farm- ers preserve their land while protecting the en- vironment. In 1994, the program was reorga- nized again under the Clinton administration to become what is now known as the Natural Resources Conservation Service. T e mission of NRCS is to provide technical assistance to farmers, private landowners and managers while improving, protecting and conserving natural resources.


Maryland’s Soil Districts On February 27, 1937, FDR sent letters to www.equiery.com | 800-244-9580


each state’s governor recommending that each state create offi cial soil conservation district leg- islation. T is would allow state and local agen- cies to directly assist farmers within their states with conservation issues specifi c to their region. T e fi rst Soil Conservation District (SCD) in the country was founded on August 4, 1937, in North Carolina. Here in Maryland, Kent County was the fi rst to establish an SCD. By 1958 all Maryland counties had their own districts with Frederick County having two- -Frederick and Catoctin. T e professionals who work within Mary-


land’s 24 SCDs perform a range of tasks from providing technical assistance, to hosting edu- cational programs and helping secure fi nan- cial assistance for conservation projects. Each district offi ce includes a manager, district con- servationist, engineers, agricultural planners, technicians,


soil scientists, urban reviewers


and administrative staff . T e goal is to create a team of professionals that can assist landown- ers with creating best management practices that enhance their operations while preventing fl ooding, safeguarding streams and reservoirs, fostering wildlife habitat, managing forest re- sources, and addressing natural resource im- pacts from urban growth. For horse farms, SCD can help create manure management and pasture rotation plans, as well as guidance on erosion control methods, cre- ating eff ective dry lots and other best practice methods. “We work with farms to diagnose possible


problems and then provide the technical as- sistance free of charge to create a plan to fi x those problems,” said Montgomery County SCD District Manager John Zawitoski. “T e actual physical work and fi nancial means to do the work is on the farm owner but we can help them apply for grants if appropriate and also provide them with a list of contractors that we work with often,” Zawitoski added.


Creating a Conservation Plan T e SCD is not an enforcement agency. It is


more like an advisor that can help farm owners create conservation and nutrient management plans. When working with an SCD offi cer, the fi rst step is a site visit which will help develop a plan on how to create and maintain best manage- ment practices specifi c for the needs of the farm. T e SCD gives the client a list of things that could be improved and creates a time line of how to make those improvements. T ese plans are often spread out over several years as to not create a mass environmental change all at once. “Most people don’t realize the responsi- bility that comes along with buying a farm,”


Zawitoski stated. “We want to build a long- term relationship with each farmer,” added J. Harne, Montgomery County SCD Agricul- tural Resource Conservation Specialist. Harne also pointed out that each plan is specifi c for each farm owner and even though they do keep these plans on fi le, they do not share them with anyone without the owner’s consent. “We would never break that trust,” he said. T e most common projects that SCD tends


to see related to horse farms are fencing out streams, rotational grazing and seeding pas- tures. Another common project is creating ways to keep clean water clean by adding gut- ters to existing structures to funnel rainwater to proper areas. With the wet weather of 2018, Charlotte


Brewster, USDA-NRCS District Conserva- tionist for Montgomery and Howard Coun- ties, said she is seeing more and more erosion


continued... NUMBERS TO KNOW


Below is a list of each county’s Soil Conservation District offi ce numbers.


· Allegany SCD 301-777-1747, ext. 3 · Anne Arundel SCD 410-571-6757 · Baltimore County SCD 410-527-5920, ext. 3 · Calvert SCD 410-535-1521, ext. 3 · Caroline SCD 410-479-1202, Ext. 3 · Carroll SCD 410-848-8200, ext. 3 · Catoctin SCD 301-695-2803, ext.3 · Cecil SCD 410-398-4411, ext. 3 · Charles SCD 301-638-3028 · Dorchester SCD 410-228-5640, ext. 3 · Frederick SCD 301-695-2803, ext. 3 · Garrett SCD 301-501-5856, ext. 3 · Harford SCD 410-638-4828 · Howard SCD 410-313-0680 · Kent SWCD 410-778-5150, ext. 3 · Montgomery SCD 301-590-2855 · Prince George’s SCD 301-574-5162, ext. 3 · Queen Anne’s SCD 410-758-3136, ext.3 · St. Mary’s SCD 301-475-8402, ext. 3 · Somerset SCD 410-621-9310 · Talbot SCD 410-822-1577, ext. 5 · Washington County SCD 301-797-6821, ext. 3 · Wicomico SCD 410-546-4777, ext. 3 · Worcester SCD 410-632-5439, ext. 3


APRIL 2019 | THE EQUIERY | 17


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