Soil erosion and siltation have always been a part of a natural environmental process. The actions of man have accelerated this process through the use and misuse of land.
As America grew, so did the demands on her bountiful resources. During the 1930’s, the culmination of several factors caused the development of a severe erosion problem in the United States. These factors, which included overworking of the soil, poor land use practices and an extended period of drought, were the cause of the “Dust Bowl”, a term used to describe the huge storms that carried sediment from the Great Plains all the way to the east coast. One particular storm was so severe, dust was scattered on the decks of ships 200 miles out to sea and drove grit into the teeth of people in New York City. It also blotted out the sun in Washington, DC. During the 1930’s over 100 million acres of farmland were destroyed.
President Franklin Roosevelt signed the Soil Conservation Act in 1935, heralding the era of soil conservation in America. The President also called for states to implement this program by organizing soil conservation districts.
The first organized effort to promote soil conservation in Thomas County began in 1937 with Demonstration Project #5.
This project was started ten miles south of Colby and covered two legal townships. Terracing, contour farming, cropping systems, and pasture management were the primary project programs. Many of the terraces constructed during this demonstration project are still functioning and in use today. The project was discontinued in 1941.
In 1937 the State Legislature authorized the establishment of Conservation Districts to conform with county boundaries. In 1943, the voters of Thomas County approved organization of the Thomas County Soil Conservation District, which was the twenty-second district approved in Kansas. The first meeting was held in October 1943. In 1972, the State Legislature broadened the focus of the districts by changing the prior designation of “soil conservation district” to “conservation district.” The major impact of this change was the shift in responsibility from solely soil conservation, to the conservation of all natural resources.