The mission of the West Virginia Conservation Agency is to preserve West Virginia’s natural resources by working with partners to promote soil and water conservation.
In the early 1930’s, the nation was experiencing an unparalleled ecological disaster known as the Dust Bowl. Following a severe and sustained drought in the Great Plains, the region’s soil began to erode and blow away. This created enormous black dust storms that blotted out the sun and swallowed the countryside. Thousands known as “dust refugees” fled the area to seek better lives.
On Capitol Hill, while testifying about the erosion problem, soil scientist Hugh Hammond Bennett threw back the curtains to reveal a sky blackened by dust. Bennett’s testimony moved Congress to unanimously pass legislation declaring soil and water conservation a national policy and priority.
Bennett would found and head the Soil Conservation Service, now known as the Natural Resources Conservation Service. Since about three-fourths of the continental United States is privately owned, Congress realized that only active, voluntary support from landowners would guarantee the success of conservation work on private land.
In 1937, President Franklin D. Roosevelt wrote the governors of all the states recommending legislation that would allow local landowners to form soil conservation districts. West Virginia’s Soil Conservation Committee was created in 1939. Its functions and programs were to conserve soil and retard erosion.
By referendum, the first conservation district organized in West Virginia was the West Fork Conservation District on February 2, 1940. The Eastern Panhandle and Greenbrier Valley Conservation Districts followed on February 3, 1940. Today, West Virginia has 14 Conservation Districts, each consisting of one to six counties.
In 2002, the state Legislature changed the name of the “Soil Conservation Committee” to “State Conservation Committee” to show that the committee’s responsibilities went beyond soil to all natural resources such as air and water. The State Conservation Committee serves as the governing body of the WVCA.
Agriculture Enhancement Program
The Agriculture Enhancement Programs (AgEP) mission is to assist farmers and landowners with the voluntary implementation of best management practices (BMPs) on agricultural lands in order to conserve and improve land and water quality. The program offers technical and financial assistance as an incentive to implement suggested BMPs.
Overall program objectives include the reduction of nutrients and sediment from entering the waters of the State and increasing farm profitability and sustainability. Each conservation district has the ability to modify the program to address specific agricultural issues in its area.
Contact your local conservation district office for more information on the AEP.
Emergency Watershed Protection
Emergency Watershed Protection is only used during a State or Federal Emergency Declaration in response to a sudden disaster. This program is only used for the removal of blockages causing a 75 percent obstruction to stream flow and not for maintenance issues such as removing trash, raising banks, dikes or dredging. Contact your local conservation district office for more information.
Stream Protection & Restoration Program
The Stream Protection and Restoration Program (SPRP) is used to cover non-emergency situations that fall outside of the Emergency Watershed Protection program. The West Virginia Conservation Agency categorizes SPRP projects into two areas: blockage removal from Legislative or Citizen Contact Reports; and planned projects using Natural Stream Restoration designs. For more information on the SPRP, please contact your local conservation district office. Contact your local conservation district office for more information.
Landowner Stream Access Permit Program
The Landowner Stream Access Permit Program (LSAPP) is a permit process designed to provide landowners the opportunity to complete certain types of stream projects with technical assistance from the West Virginia Conservation Agency (WVCA). By cooperating with the WVCA, the permit application process is streamlined and the landowner is given expert technical advice regarding their proposed stream activities, which may include a project design if necessary.
Eligible Activities Include:
2. Streambank stabilization
3. Debris removal
4. Channel restoration
For more information on the LSAPP, contact your local conservation district office.
Non-Point Source Program
The West Virginia Conservation Agency is responsible for West Virginia’s Agriculture and Construction components of the Clean Water Act Section 319 Non-Point Source Program. In addition, the WVCA is responsible for coordinating and implementing water quality improvement projects with the 14 conservation districts.
For more information on the Non-Point Source Program please visit the Watershed Resource Center website.
The West Virginia Conservation Agency is responsible for the inspection and Operation and Maintenance of 170 watershed dam’s and 22 channels throughout West Virginia. The WVCA is also responsible for the rehabilitation of the state’s aging watershed dams. Contact your local conservation district office for more information.