Conservation Assistance at Your Fingertips
Have an erosion problem on your land or farm? Interested in learning of the benefits of livestock exclusion from waterways? Need your questions answered about how to protect the soil, water and other natural resources on your property?
Your local Soil & Water Conservation Districts are here to help! Soil & Water Conservation Districts are the local “boots on the ground” available to educate, and provide expertise on conservation practices that can help conserve the natural resources on your farm and property.
What is a SWCD?
A Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) is officially titled a ‘political subdivision of state government’ that utilizes technical and financial resources from the local, state, federal, and the private sector to help conserve today’s natural resources.
Conservation Districts can be found in every state all over the country. There are 47 SWCDs throughout Virginia, with each District being self-governed by a locally elected and appointed Board of Directors that make decisions on conservation issues at the local level. A SWCD Board will meet monthly to discuss current natural resource concerns, and also approve conservation practices.
What does a Soil & Water Conservation District Do? What are the responsibilities of your SWCD?
Soil & Water Conservation Districts focus their responsibilities on the local land, water, and other related natural resources. SWCDs coordinate and implement a suite of local programs to help identify and mitigate conservation concerns.
Soil & Water Conservation Districts in Virginia are responsible for administering the Virginia Agricultural BMP Cost-Share Program. Through the program, Districts provide technical and financial assistance, as well as state tax credit, to landowners and/or farmers who implement a variety of agricultural Best Management Practices. Termed BMPs for short. These include practices such as: cover crops, stream exclusion, grazing management, animal waste storage facilities, tree plantings, and riparian buffers.
Districts also administer the Virginia Conservation Assistance Program, a grant program of the Virginia Association of Soil & Water Conservation Districts. This is an urban cost-share program that provides, technical and financial assistance to local property owners installing eligible stormwater BMPs such as; Rain Gardens, Rainwater Harvesting, and Conservation Landscaping.
Soil & Water Conservation Districts also provide conservation and natural resource related information and educational programs to the general public and people of all ages, including children and youth. For example; you might find your local SWCD at an Earth Day celebration, hosting a rain barrel workshop, or down at a local stream with students studying the watershed. Some SWCDs also have the operation and maintence responsibilities of local flood control dams.
(Headwaters SWCD staff photo: Measuring cross-fencing and inspecting a watering facility installed to aid in rotational grazing.)
What Conservation District Resources are Available?
District staff are willing and able to meet with any local farmer and/or landowner to discuss any natural resource concern you may have on your property. Technical staff are there to guide you through the best course of action, which may include implementing BMPs on your land. For example; if a producer is interested in excluding livestock from a creek on his/her property, that producer can contact their local SWCD office to have a technical staff member make a site visit. During this visit, the technician will work with the landowner to identify his/her goals and objectives for the property, as well any natural resource concerns. That staff member will work with the farmer on how to solve those resource concerns and assist them through the process of applying for any eligible cost-share programs.
SWCDs are also available to answer any questions you have about local conservation issues and also serve as a local resource on the area’s natural resources.
How Can You Find Out More On Soil & Water Conservation District Programs?
Not sure who your local SWCD is? Below is a map of all 47 districts throughout Virginia to help determine what district serves your locality. You can also find information on your local SWCD by contacting the Virginia Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts (VASWCD) via phone or the web to find the most up-to-date contact information for your local District. (Phone: 804-559-0324, Web: https://vaswcd.org/districts-by-countycity) You can reach out to your local SWCD by phone, email or the web. Most districts can also be found on various social media platforms.
(Photo Courtesy of Virginia Association of Soil & Water Conservation Districts https://vaswcd.org/map-of-districts)
Are there ways the public can get involved?
Absolutely! There are numerous ways you can get involved in the work of your local SWCD. All monthly District board meetings are posted and open to the public. If you are looking to get involved in conservation on a more personal level, contact your local district to see if they have a volunteer program or any local upcoming events you can participate in! Do you have a passion for conservation, agriculture, and the environment? You can also consider serving on your local Conservation District Board as District Director or Associate Director.
About the Author
Rachel Winter; Education Specialist & Conservation Technical Assistant
Headwaters Soil & Water Conservation District—Verona, VA