Hugh's Corner

Hugh Hammond Bennett

We kinda like this guy.  And you should too.  He's the whole reason why we have national soil conservation programs.  After witnessing the Dust Bowl in the Great Plains during 1934, he awakened a nation and began efforts to educate everyone on the importance of soil conservation.  After 75 years, we are still seeing those actions on a daily basis.  

"Out of the long list of nature's gifts to man, none is perhaps so utterly essential to human life as soil."

"If we are bold in our thinking, courageous in accepting new ideas, and willing to work with instead of against our land, we shall find in conservation farming an avenue to the greatest food production the world has ever known - not only for the war, but for the peace that is to follow."

"History is largely a record of human struggle to wrest the land from nature, because man relies for sustenance on the products of the soil. So direct, is the relationship between soil erosion, the productivity of the land, and the prosperity of people, that the history of mankind, to a considerable degree at least, may be interpreted in terms of the soil and what has happened to it as the result of human use."

In 1933 the Soil Erosion Service (SES) is created in the Department of Interior with Hugh Hammond Bennett as Chief. Bennett served as Chief of SES and, later, the Soil Conservation Service until his retirement on November 13, 1951.

The Soil Conservation Service was established in the U. S. Department of Agriculture by Congress in 1935 to plan and carry out a national program to conserve and develop our soil and water resources.

In 1937 President Roosevelt urged governors of all states to pass legislation authorizing the creation of Soil Conservation Districts.

The Federal Crop Insurance Reform and Department of Agriculture Reorganization Act was passed in 1994 and initiated a major reorganization of the USDA. SCS was renamed the Natural Resources Conservation Service to better reflect the scope of the agency’s mission.

Bennett was the critical element to the successful creation of a Federal soil conservation service. He had the ability, whether by dint of personality or experience, to persist without alienating others. Faced with an obstacle, he explained and educated, often in lengthy memoranda, and did not succumb to burning bridges with those whose support he needed or might need in the future.  Bennett was perhaps the only career civil servant, without strong personal social and political ties, to create and lead a Federal service.

Recognizing that nearly 75% of the continental United States is privately owned, President Roosevelt and his leadership realized that only active, voluntary support from private landowners could enable the success of conservation work on private land. It was determined that leadership for soil conservation should be implemented from the ground up through local units of government rather than from the top down from federal government. As a result, President Roosevelt eventually wrote all state governors on February 27, 1937 urging them to adopt legislation allowing for the creation of soil conservation districts within their state.

The first Soil Conservation District was organized in the Brown Creek watershed of North Carolina on August 4, 1937.

Brown Creek Soil Conservation District

1st in the state, nation, and world!

Don't feel like reading?  Check out our nifty interactive timeline below


"Big Hugh's" Timeline

From SES to NRCS
President Roosevelt Creates Conservation Districts
Dr. Bennett's Legacy

Dr. Hugh Hammond Bennett (left) and Mr. Roach Stewart of Duke Power Company attend a picnic for tenant farmers of the Duke Power Company near Mooresville, N.C.

Dr. Hugh Hammond Bennett (left) and Mr. Roach Stewart of Duke Power Company attend a picnic for tenant farmers of the Duke Power Company near Mooresville, N.C.

Hugh Hammond Bennett (right), first Chief of the Soil Conservation Service, inspects seedlings at the West Ottawa District Nursery,  MI

© 2020 by Hugh Hammond Bennett Chapter of the Soil and Water Conservation Society