DeKalb County SWCD Celebrates 75th Anniversary

February 21, 2022

In 1928 Hugh Bennett, head of the Soil Conservation Service, (federal agency that is now know as the Natural Resources Conservation Service) wrote a book entitled “Soil Erosion A National Menace.” In the book he brought attention to the issues of the artificial disturbance of the vegetative cover and ground equilibrium chiefly brought upon by man and his domestic animals.

At that time, they estimated that not less than 126,000,000,000 pounds of plant-food material was being removed from the fields and pastures of the United States every year.

In 1929, Congress recognized that erosion was a national issue and funds were appropriated to conduct research on the causes and control of erosion. As the drought of the 1930’s became a national concern more emphases were placed on trying to save our soil resources.

As a result, Illinois passed a law in 1937 that allowed counties to organize Conservation Districts. The purpose was to establish a systematic approach to sound land use in the local community.

In February of 1947 the DeKalb County Soil Conservation Service was established and it wasn’t until 1961 that water was added to the name to recognize its importance and to give it equal billing with soil in the conservation equation: DeKalb County Soil & Water Conservation District (SWCD).

Dean Johnson and Jeff Woodyatt with the DeKalb County Soil and Water Conservation District speak to local teachers during the Summer Ag Institute.

Moving forward 75 years, the challenges of protecting our soil and water resources still exist today. Through science and evaluation, we have learned so much more about how our soil functions. We have a better understanding of what makes for a healthy soil, what best management practices protect the soil from erosion and in turn improves our water quality.

The diversity of the programs and services that the SWCD provide to the community have always been a mainstay, from educating children to adults on conservation-related topics. The SWCD provides resources for community decision makers, leads watershed planning efforts and provides one-to-one planning advice for individuals to help them address their natural resource concerns.

Elected directors from our community provide the guidance and leadership for our District, just as they did in 1947. Dedicated folks with diversified backgrounds and a passion for protecting the natural resources are a common theme for these qualified individuals.

John Begun, a landowner and producer from the Kirkland area, currently serves as our chairman. Paul Kuhn, a landowner and producer from Genoa, is the vice chairman. Lynn Martz from the Maple Park area, a landowner, grain producer and livestock operator, is treasurer. Dan Kenney, a retired educator from DeKalb and leader in the development of the DeKalb County Community Gardens, is our secretary. Director Anita Zurbrugg from the DeKalb area is a landowner, gardener, and community leader in philanthropic giving. Several other Associate Directors serve and provide valuable input in the organization as well.

SWCD staff members are Dean Johnson and Jeff Woodyatt.

The SWCD mission statement says that we are to “responsibly protect our healthy soils and clean water for all generations.”

SWCD is always looking for individuals that want to help carry on that mission. The District has got 75 years under its belt, will you help take it to the next 75 years?

Please contact the SWCD office if you would like more information at 815-756-3234, ext. 3 or visit the website at