In 1937, Minnesota legislature passed an Enabling Act to give citizens the power to form Soil Conservation Districts. Chapter 44A Soil Conservation in the 1938 Supplement to Mason’s Minnesota Statutes (pdf), outlines the criteria and process for creating soil conservation districts.
The purpose of Soil and Water Conservation Districts (SWCDs) is to conserve soil, water, and related natural resources on private land.
Soil and Water Conservation Districts are political subdivisions of the state with certain powers and duties. SWCDs are also subject to other state statutes and rules, which govern the conduct and operation of public bodies. SWCDs:
- Conduct resource surveys and demonstration projects;
- Carry out soil and water conservation measures on any lands in the district with the consent of the landowner;
- Cooperate or enter into agreements with any governmental agency or individual landowner for the purpose of carrying on a program of erosion prevention and control;
- Purchase or accept property and income and provide equipment and supplies that will help to bring about conservation practices;
- Construct, install, improve, maintain, and operate such structures and works as may be necessary for proper performance of the district;
- Develop a comprehensive and annual plan for the conservation of soil and water resources. These plans are required for the district to receive state grant funds;
- Assume land by purchase, lease, or otherwise to improve, maintain, operate, and administer any soil and water conservation project undertaken by federal or state government;
- Sue or be sued;
- Require compensation or contributions for goods and services provided;
- Make application or enter into an agreement with a designated authority for federal assistance;
- Perform any other acts necessary to secure and use federal aid;
- Acquire land, easements, or rights-of-way needed in connection with works of improvement installed with federal assistance.
- Use necessary funds to provide membership in state and national associations that pertain to district operations and is authorized to participate and appropriate necessary funds to defray expenses of district representatives for meetings of such groups;
- Procure insurance directly or through the county in which the district is located;
- Publish any information relating to the activities of the district;
- Provide advice to or consult with county or municipal representatives; and
- Present an annual budget to the board of county commissioners.
Each SWCD is governed by a five member board of supervisors elected by the citizens of the county. There is an exception, where there are four elected supervisors and one supervisor appointed by a tribal band. The SWCD board are responsible for policy development, annual plans, long-range plans and budgets.
Most SWCDs have full-time and/or part-time staff. BWSR maintains a SWCD directory that contains the contact information for board and staff member, as well as, the SWCD address and telephone number(s).
The Minnesota Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts website maintains a list of SWCD websites and an interactive map.