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Tualatin River Wildlife Refuge
Wetland. Photo Credit: Andy Bauer
What is a conservation district?
The Tualatin Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) is a local unit of government that helps the community improve conditions of soil, water, and other natural resources.
We are a non-regulatory organization
We work with Washington County residents on a cooperative, voluntary basis to conserve our shared resources for current and future generations. We do not create or enforce natural resource regulations or land-use rules.
The Tualatin Soil and Water Conservation District provides technical assistance, financial assistance, and education to create a sustainable, productive, healthy environment for the Washington County community. We identify natural resource challenges and use both time-tested methods and cutting-edge research to determine solutions. Working with residents, we help our community implement sustainable solutions to conserve and enhance natural resources.
Founded in 1955, Tualatin SWCD originally focused on soil and water conservation on agricultural lands within Washington County. As the county’s population continues to grow and land uses change, our goals have broadened to address a variety of conservation needs in urban and suburban areas, rural residential communities, and forested lands.
In 2016, Washington County voters approved a tax levy, providing a stable funding source for our conservation programs. Since then, we have expanded our reach, providing education, grants, advice, and on-the-ground conservation projects to benefit community and environmental health.
Why are we called the Tualatin Soil and Water Conservation District?
Many SWCDs are named after the county where they work. When our organization was founded, we were known as the Washington Soil Conservation District. The boundaries of Washington County align very closely with the boundaries of the Tualatin River watershed, and we often talk about protecting natural resources on a watershed scale.
In 2003, we changed our name to the Tualatin Soil and Water Conservation District to better reflect this connection between watershed systems and the natural resources within them.
Why do soil and water conservation districts exist?
The Dust Bowl natural disaster of the 1930s was caused by years of heavily cultivating farmlands without using practices to ensure long-term soil health. The soil’s structure was severely compromised by plowing that removed deep-rooted plants that once held the soil in place. After several years of drought, the unhealthy soil turned to dust and was blown into the sky, creating “black blizzards.” Over 100 million acres of land were directly affected, and the dust storms impacted the entire country’s health and economy.
See the difference between healthy soil and unhealthy soil.
In response to the Dust Bowl disaster, the federal government established the Soil Conservation Service (now known as the Natural Resources Conservation Service) to help landowners preserve the health of soil and other natural resources. President Franklin D. Roosevelt famously proclaimed, “The nation that destroys its soil destroys itself.”
In 1937, locally driven natural resource solutions were deemed most effective, and states were encouraged to establish entities to promote soil health. Now, conservation districts exist in almost every U.S. county.