Conservation districts under-used

How are you using your local conservation district? Or let’s rephrase: are you using your conservation district?

The Red River Basin is fortunate to have a great presence from our conservation districts throughout North Dakota, Minnesota and Manitoba.

Conservation districts are local units of government required by law to carry out natural resource management programs.

Districts work with landowners and operators who are willing to help them manage and protect land and water resources on all public and private lands in the United States and Canada.

In Manitoba, conservation district programming is directed by policies and actions outlined in local integrated watershed management plans.

A watershed-based approach to land and water management provides benefits that include understanding how activities on the landscape influence water quality and quantity, fostering a connection to the landscape, and ensuring activities upstream are respectful of downstream residents.

Minnesotans count on Soil and Water Conservation Districts to provide technical assistance with practices that protect the quality of the state’s natural resources.

Conservation districts fill a crucial niche in providing soil and water management services to land owners.

The purpose of the North Dakota Association of Soil Conservation Districts is to further the application of sound and practical soil and water conservation practices.

A soil conservation district has established boundaries, usually along county lines, that have authority to conduct surveys, investigations and research relating to soil erosion and the prevention and control measures needed.

The Minnesota Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts provides a list of advantages in supporting and using a soil and water conservation district:

  • Non-regulatory: Landowners co-operate, expanding and exercising their own commitments to stewardship. It is proven more productive than regulatory coercion.
  • Several agencies provide standards and specs for implementation of natural resource management practices to the district. The agencies recognize the technical competence of the SWCD staff.
  • SWCDs share data on resource protection and initiate new treatment techniques, continually testing and improving land-treatment solutions to gain more cost-effective means of improving water quality.
  • Staff is technically accountable to the standards. Annual inspections are made of applied practices to ensure continued quality.
  • Knowing the landowners, knowing the land, knowing the solutions, and experience applying the solutions makes the SWCD staff exceptionally qualified to apply practices.
  • Cost-share dollars available to landowners are tied to the engineering standards practiced by the SWCD.
  • Able to co-ordinate resources from outside the county to on-the-ground implementation of the plan.
  • The district leverages additional resources to implement the action items of the county surface water plan.

To learn more about conservation districts, visit North Dakota Association of Soil Conservation Districts at, Minnesota Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts at and Manitoba Conservation Districts Association at

The Red River Basin Commission is a chartered not-for-profit corporation under the provisions of Manitoba, North Dakota, Minnesota, and South Dakota law. It can be reached at 701-356-3183 and 204-982-7254 or at

About the author

The Red River Basin Commission's recent articles


Stories from our other publications