Soil and Water Conservation Society
Soil and Water Conservation Society
Established in 1945, the Soil and Water Conservation Society (SWCS) is a nonprofit organization that advocates the "protection, enhancement and wise use of soil, water and related natural resources." The organization was formed during an era of public concern about soil erosion and water resource management following the dust bowl period of the 1930s in the United States. Improved farm tillage practices and an improved conservation ethic for land use were key objectives of the SWCS and became focal points for the organization. From its inception, the SWCS has been an advocate of soil conservation and improved use of soil and water resources , with its primary audience being professionals in agriculture.
In recent years, the SWCS has expanded its conservation focus to a broader natural resource perspective that goes beyond agriculture, although environmental issues associated with agriculture are still of significant interest. As a result, the SWCS membership is now made up of conservation professionals from many natural resource and agricultural disciplines. Individual and business membership in the SWCS exceeds 11,000, making it one of the largest multidisciplinary organizations for conservation professionals in the United States.
The SWCS actively promotes education, with the objective of a membership that can play leadership roles in dealing with environmental issues. Working groups within the SWCS develop policy statements on a wide range of environmental topics, including water quality , wetlands , biodiversity , floodplain management and sustainable agriculture . Through education programs and professional meetings, members of the society are challenged to set ethical standards that recognize the interdependence of people and their environment . Emphasis on sustainable land use practices and a sustainable environment have emerged as themes for its membership in the 1990s.
Educational programs have targeted policy makers and the general public alike. In 1995, the SWCS published a survey of 17,000 landowners who participated in the federal Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), which illustrated what farmers planned to do with their CRP land after their contracts expired. The intent was to inform policy makers about the environmental benefits of the CRP program and the consequences if this program was terminated. Other education programs focus on farmers, such as a White Paper on conservation tillage that stressed the environmental benefits of no-till farming. This had an important effect on farmers' attitudes toward no-till farming, assessing both the environmental benefits and costs of no-till farming.
Following the floods in the upper Mississippi River Valley in 1993, the SWCS supported Internet-linked communications with members about farm practices and their effects on the great flood. This program led to an 80% increase in farmer participation in the emergency Wetlands Reserve Program. The SWCS also played a key role in promoting conservation language and funding in the 1996 federal farm bill.
In 2002, an initiative was established to examine the conservation implications of climate change. This project was set up after the National Climatic Data Center commented on the 20% increase of precipitation intensity.
Continuing education programs on the latest developments in land and water management are carried out through workshops, field trips, conferences, and symposiums. The SWCS now sponsors a program for certifying professionals in soil erosion and sediment control. As part of its educational mission, the SWCS publishes the Journal of Soil and Water Conservation, a bimonthly publication that reports the results of new natural resource and agricultural research.
[Kenneth N. Brooks ]