In the early 1930s, along with the greatest depression this nation ever experienced, came an equally unparalleled ecological disaster known as the Dust Bowl. In 1937, President Roosevelt wrote the governors of all the states recommending legislation that would allow local landowners to form soil conservation districts. As a response, Congress unanimously passed legislation declaring soil and water conservation a national policy and priority. Today, the country is blanketed with nearly 3,000 conservation districts.
When further degradation of environmental resources began rising to the nation’s consciousness in the 1960s, the Federal government mandated the creation of another nationwide system to work at the local community level, hence the nationwide network of Resource Conservation and Development Councils (RC&Ds) were born.
Since then, with the local Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) as one of our main sponsors, the Eastern Shore RC&D has specialized in facilitating research, outreach and education to all levels of the community fostering deep collaborative partnerships with local governments, planning districts, research facilities, educational institutions, health care facilities, non-profits, and citizen groups on Virginia’s Eastern Shore.
For more than 46 years, we at the ES RC&D have worked quietly in the background on wide ranging local issues. We pioneered development of innovative public infrastructure such as Waterless Fire Hydrants for dealing with the challenges of rural firefighting. We have spearheaded widespread implementation of public boat landings in many of our seaside and bayside towns. We have collaborated on the development of model conservation demonstration programs such as Living Shorelines, which not only mitigate erosion from increased weather activity and rising sea levels, but also improve water quality which in turn improves aquaculture. The reestablishment of oyster and clam beds in the Chesapeake Bay and the in the coastal waters of the seaside contribute not only to a major economic gain but also to the resiliency of our shorelines. Not only do we facilitate the research and development of conservation and resource infrastructure, we follow up with community outreach and education to spread the practices of resiliency throughout the community and private landowners.
A New Era Dawns
On April 15, 2011 the 2011 Appropriations Bill to fund the federal government was signed into law. This bill eliminated the funding for the nationwide RC&D programs. The Eastern Shore RC&D council itself remains in existence as a self-sustaining 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Although as a direct response of the removal of federal funds, we have been reduced to one part time Projects Director, we have a solid balance sheet and will continue to carry out the projects and agreements that are in place, as well as evaluate future opportunities.