The national soil conservation program was launched at the beginning of the Great Depression. The Soil Erosion Service was set up in 1933 on a temporary basis in the Department of the Interior to allow the work to start while more permanent plans were made.
In 1935, the “Soil Conservation Act” passed Congress and it set up the Soil Conservation Service (SCS) as a permanent agency of the Department of Agriculture. The Soil Conservation Districts Law was drafted. President Franklin D. Roosevelt sent it to the governors of all states in February of 1937. North Dakota adopted the Soil Conservation Districts Law effective as March 16, 1937. This act established the State Soil Conservation Committee and provided for the creation of soil conservation districts.
Establishing a soil conservation district in Williams County became a reality August 17, 1938 when the articles of Incorporation were signed by the Secretary of State, James D. Gronna. Twenty-one townships extending from Williston, up the Little Muddy Creek drainage area, to the Divide county line became known as the Little Muddy Soil Conservation District.
Elected and serving as supervisors were R.A. Reider, chairman, S.K. Berg and John Lohse. Organizational meetings were held by Karl Swanson, County Agent of Williams County and had been formally approved by the farmers of the area.
Early members of the Soil Conservation Service personnel to serve the district were Robert J. Montgomery, A. W. Warden, and C.A. Haskins. Matt Braus was to follow soon and remain over the next few years as Work Unit Conservationist.
The initial work included acquainting the farmers of the district with the functions and meaning of the District; finances (means and ways of running the district), gaining acceptance of conservation practices that were needed on the land, and getting enough help for the surveys needed to get the ball rolling.
Prices were low, money was short, and the county was just coming out of the “dirty thirties”. There were few contractors available for the work needed, such as dams and dugouts. The District eventually secured equipment through the Soil Conservation Service and operated it for cost. Many stock water facilities were constructed with this equipment. Some trees were secured from the Mandan Nursery and planted for mostly farmstead shelterbelts. Some free grass seed was also secured and distributed to help repair the damage that occurred from the years of drought. Crested wheat grass was then being introduced and quite a large acreage seed in partnership with the District.
In 1943, ten new townships were added to the District, making a total of thirty one townships. Equipment acquired at this time was a tree planter, Basin Lister, and a Caterpillar tractor. Over the next 55 years other equipment purchased was a tractor, hoe drill, grass seeder, no-till drill, district pickup, tree truck, chemical applicator, and a trailer for transporting the tractor and tree planter.
After the war years, the heavy equipment was abandoned and the heavy dirt work was done by contractors.
The first office of the Soil Conservation Service and the Soil Conservation District was located in the old Post Office building on Main Street in Williston. These two agencies worked together under a memorandum of understanding, sharing office space, equipment, and staff. The next office building was built on south Main Street in Williston and housed the ASCS, FmHA, the SCS and Williams County Soil Conservation District until 1989 when these agencies moved to their present location at 1106 W 2nd St.
In 1946, land in the Buford Trenton area became the Lower Yellowstone Soil Conservation District which was comprised mostly of irrigation acres.
The District, in 1969, purchased a 32’ x 48’ metal building located at 19 West 1st street to house the cooler for keeping the tree stock in good condition while machine plantings were being done. This building was also used to store the District’s equipment and supplies. In the earlier years a cellar west of Williston was rented to store trees for the few weeks they were being planted.
In December 1996, the Lower Yellowstone Soil Conservation District consolidated their acres on the Williams County side of the river into this district.
The soil conservation district is a legal subdivision of the state. In the beginning years, the board was comprised of three elected supervisors. However in later years, allowable by law, the supervisors were able to appoint two more supervisors. This makes it easier to have a quorum necessary to conduct the District’s business. The District has also had a number of associate supervisors who bring a variety of knowledge and expertise to the District’s operations. This position does not have voting privileges. Those who have served in this position were Maynard Carlson, Tom Brekke, and Grant Archer.
Jointly, the Williams County SCD and the Lower Yellowstone SCD applied for a technician’s grant through the state and received funding from July 1984 to July 1987 and again from July 1989 to July 1997. With this financial assistance these districts were able to hire individuals to assist with the District’s workload.
There were many co-op trainee students who worked in the Williston Field Office over the years. Through this program and the UND-Williston these individuals were able to get hands-on experience in the work of the conservation service and conservation district.
The board approved the production of a newsletter called EARTHWORKS in 1989 for which Sharon Moline, District Clerk, was the editor. Its purpose was to keep the cooperators informed, educated, and the public aware of the work the District does.
The Williams County Soil Conservation District has regular meetings the second Thursday of each month, usually at 9 a.m., the place to be announced. There are times when changes need to be made to facilitate board members. The schedule of meetings is listed on the courthouse bulletin board and a notice of the monthly meeting is placed in the Williston Herald newspaper. The office can be contacted for up-to-date information.
In 2011, the Williams County Soil Conservation District constructed a building on the east side of the existing building. This steel frame building measured 40’ x 48’ and was utilized for equipment storage with a gravel floor.
In December of 2011, Grant Archer announced his resignation as Chairman of the Board of Directors for Williams County Soil Conservation.
In 2017, a new tree shed was constructed out at the NDSU Research Extension location off hwy 2. The old tree shed was sold in the fall of 2017 since a new building was put up. The new building includes a heated shop, office/general area, and a cooler for the trees.