What is a Soil and Water Conservation District?

A soil and water conservation district (SWCD) is authorized by the Soil and Water Conservation District Act (73-20-25 through 73-20-48 NMSA 1978 ) to conserve and develop the natural resources of the state, provide for flood control, preserve wildlife, protect the tax base and promote the health, safety and general welfare of the people of New Mexico. SWCDs coordinate assistance from all available sources — public and private, local, state and federal — in an effort to develop locally driven solutions to local natural resource concerns. There are 47 SWCDs covering the majority of New Mexico.

A soil and water conservation district is not:

    • a conservancy district , which delivers or supplies water for irrigation or other purposes;
    • the Natural Resources Conservation Service (formerly Soil Conservation Service), a federal agency which provides technical assistance to SWCDs and others to implement conservation practices.

What does a Conservation District do?

Among other things, conservation districts help:

    • implement conservation practices to keep farm and ranch lands productive;
    • protect water resources;
    • plant trees and other land cover to hold soil in place, clean the air, provide cover for wildlife and beautify neighborhoods;
    • help developers and homeowners manage the land in an environmentally sensitive manner; and
    • reach out to communities and schools to teach the value of natural resources and encourage conservation efforts.

How does a Conservation District operate?

A board of elected and appointed supervisors, who are themselves residents and/or landowners of the district, meets regularly (usually once a month) in a public meeting to make decisions on local conservation programs.  The districts work in partnership with NMDA, other state and federal agencies, and various organizations to advance conservation on private and public lands in their area. If authorized by voters in the district, SWCDs may collect a mill levy on lands in the district, up to a maximum of one mill.  Many SWCDs also compete for grants from the government and private sector to fund district programs.