What is a Conservation District?

After the dust bowl of the 1930’s, locally led Soil and Water Conservation Districts were established across the nation to promote better farming and ranching practices. We knew that we could do better to conserve our invaluable soil and water resources. And we knew that the only way to get better practices on the ground was by working with our neighbors.

Today, Montana’s Conservation Districts are still doing that good work. We’re still the point of contact for locally led conservation. And we still care about the health of our land.

Conservation Districts (CDs) are local, government entities that consist of a board of volunteer supervisors. They are responsible for several things in their district:

  1. 310 Permits. The Conservation District reviews and approves (or not) 310 Permits on streams within their jurisdiction. These permits, established by the Montana Natural Streambed and Land Preservation Act, must be obtained before beginning work in any streambed.
  2. Soil and Water Conservation. The CD also has the responsibility to promote soil and water conservation in whatever way they see fit. This may be by partnering with NRCS to promote soil conservation programs; by initiating restoration projects; by hosting workshops; by implementing and supporting natural resource education for youth; or whatever else they may deem appropriate in their area.

Conservation Districts are funded though the local property tax base, but in many areas this is not even enough to employ an administrator to coordinate meetings, much less to initiate, implement and support projects.

Visit our Programs Page to see how SWCDM supports districts in completing these missions. You can also go to our News and Updates page to read news about Conservation across the state of Montana.

And we also encourage you to check out our sister organization, Montana Association of Conservation Districts, which handles policy topics for conservation districts. Or visit our Conservation District Directory to find your local Conservation District.