For Love of the Land: A History of the National
Association of Conservation Districts
Hardcover, 6x9 in, 356 pages, Illustrated
Wheatmark, August 2009
In the spring of 1935, the skies of New York and Washington, D.C.,
were darkened by windblown soils from farms of Texas and Oklahoma.
Congressmen could taste the grit in their mouths as they
listened to Hugh Hammond Bennett testify about the need for a
national soil conservation program.
Conservation districts, local units of government designed to
guide soil and water conservation work, led the action to get soil
erosion under control. This book tells the story of their founding,
recounting how they built a national organization, the National
Association of Conservation Districts (NACD), to represent them in
the fight for a sound national conservation program.
For Love of the Land describes the people whose bold
ideas sparked the conservation movement. The characters are strong:
Hugh Bennett, charismatic leader of the Soil Conservation Service;
E. C. "Mac" McArthur, the dedicated first president of NACD from
South Carolina who didn't see why World War II equipment shouldn't
go to conservation districts; Water Davis, the burly Texas rancher
who tackled conservation with the same energy that he used to
organize his timber, cotton, cattle, and grain holdings.
Additionally, For Love of the Land provides a track
record of the accomplishments -- and the unfinished agenda -- of
the conservation movement in this country. Keeping soil on the
land, and out of our waters, is a goal that everyone agrees upon.
But how to get that job done is another matter. Should the federal
government mandate erosion and pollution control standards? Who
should set the priorities for resource conservation work? What
happens when the goals of environmentalists conflict with the
economic needs of farmers? Author R. Neil Sampson introduces us to
the complex array of conservation programs that have grown as our
national answer to those questions.
Woven into the texture of the book are the many quieter
achievements of NACD: the founding and growth of its conservation
awards programs, its weekly newsletter, Ladies Auxiliary,
and the programs that reach out to districts with needed services
to get conservation on the land and protect the nation's
In all, this book provides an inside look at how the soil and
water conservation programs and policies in the United States were
developed, and why they work as they do.
About the Author
R. Neil Sampson operates a natural resource consulting firm in
Alexandria, Virginia. He was executive vice president of the
National Association of Conservation Districts from 1978 to 1984. A
native of Idaho, he has degrees in agronomy from the University of
Idaho and public administration from Harvard University. He is the
author of Farmland or Wasteland: A Time to Choose and
With One Voice: The National Association of Conservation
Districts. He has also published dozens of book chapters,
professional papers, and popular articles about natural resource
concerns and policy issues.