Macon County Soil & Water  

Conservation District

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Dust on the President’s Desk, Trouble on the Plains

Following the harrowing dust storms of the early 1930s, and soil scientist Hugh Hammond Bennett’s dramatic reveal of a sky blackened by dust in Washington, D.C., President Franklin D. Roosevelt wrote to all governors in 1937 to pass state legislation that would allow landowners to form local soil conservation districts. 

Meanwhile, in Macon County, all eyes were on Lake Decatur, as it had already lost a quarter of its capacity due to siltation by the 1940s, only 20 years since its creation! While siltation is indeed a natural enemy of impounded rivers, Decatur’s burgeoning agribusiness industries (A.E. Staley’s starch plant and Archer Daniels Midland Co.’s grain processing plant) required a reliable source of water, and creating solutions to the siltation problem was, and is, an absolute priority for the region.

In 1941, the City of Decatur hired two soil conservationists to work in the Lake Decatur Watershed with the local landowners, to curtail the amount of sediment leaving fields and finding its way to the lake. Two years later, six years after Roosevelt’s plea for local conservation districts went to all governors, Macon County voted to create its own Soil & Water Conservation District, working with private landowners throughout the entire county. 

Today the structure of the Soil & Water Conservation District is relatively unchanged. The City still funds positions within the District to work specifically with the Lake Decatur Watershed, while state funding allows the District to hire employees to aid urban and rural landowners throughout the county. 

Hugh Hammond Bennett’s words spoken in 1959 still ring true today, “From every conceivable angle—economic, social, cultural, public health, national defense—conservation of natural resources is an objective on which all should agree.” (Hugh Hammond Bennett. The Hugh Bennett Lectures. Raleigh, North Carolina: The Agricultural Foundation, Inc., North Carolina State College, June 1959.)

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4004 College Park Road  Decatur, IL 62521   *  217-877-5670 Ext. 3

SWCD Mission

Our mission is to work with private landowners and other organizations to help prevent and control soil erosion, improve the water quality of local rivers, lakes, and streams, and to restore and enhance native wildlife habitat.