During the Dust Bowl era in the 1930s, the issue of soil erosion – sheet erosion, wind erosion and severe gullying – came to a head in many parts of the United States as well as Idaho. A 1934 soil erosion survey in Idaho revealed that more than 27 million acres of land, or roughly half the state, had serious soil erosion problems.
The U.S. Soil Conservation Service (later named the Natural Resources Conservation Service) was formed in the mid-1930s, and the Idaho Legislature formed the Idaho Soil and Water Conservation in March 1939. The Conservation Commission is celebrating its 75th anniversary in 2014.
Our first order of business was to help form and coordinate soil conservation districts at the county level. As the districts formed, NRCS and the Conservation Commission provided technical assistance to assist with conservation projects. Farmers and ranchers were elected as directors of the conservation districts, providing leadership on project priorities. The local, state and federal partnerships formed in Idaho during the Dust Bowl era continue to this day.
The SWCC was housed at the Idaho Department of Lands until 1997, when the Legislature transferred it to the Idaho State Department of Agriculture. In 2010, the Legislature recognized the importance of the independent, non-regulatory role and services that SWCC provides as a vehicle to reduce the need for environmental regulations. In FY 2011, the Legislature renamed the the Soil & Water Conservation Commission, and granted SWCC autonomy by authorizing it to enter into contracts for the proper administration of its statutory authorities. The SWCC contracts with the Department of Administration for fiscal, human resources, and information technology support.