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What is a Conservation District?

Conservation Districts are local governmental subdivisions established under state law to carry out a program for the conservation, use and development of soil, water and related resources. Districts are resource management agencies, coordinating and implementing resource and environmental programs at the local level in cooperation with federal and state agencies.

Chautauqua County Soil and Water Staff and Directors

The mission of the Chautauqua County Soil and Water Conservation District is to provide leadership in natural resource conservation and implementation of soil and water Best Management Practices.

The Chautauqua County Soil & Water Conservation District is directed by a Board of Directors who elect a chairman, vice-chairman, and a vice treasurer. The Secretary acts as the the Secretary/Assistant Treasurer. All 5 members of the Board are appointed by the County Legislature. Two members are representatives from the County Legislature. One representative is from the Grange, one is from the Farm Bureau, and one is At-Large. The Board of Directors directs the activities of the Chautauqua County Soil and Water Conservation District staff. District staff are responsible for the implementation of the District’s programming and are held accountable for all actions carried out by the Chautauqua County Soil & Water Conservation District.

The Chautauqua County Soil & Water Conservation District Board of Directors meets on the third Wednesday of each month at 8:30 AM at 3542 Turner Road in Jamestown, New York. The public is invited to attend.

Organizational Structure:

The Secretary/Assistant Treasurer and the District Staff report to the Chautauqua County Soil & Water Conservation District Board of Directors.

Board of Directors:

Fred Croscut – Chairman, Farm Bureau Representative

Frank Gould III – County Legislator

Lisa Vanstrom – County Legislator

Bruce Kidder – At Large Representative

Allen Peterson – Grange Representative

District Employees:

David Spann – District Field Manager & WQCC Contact [] – Ext. 117

Melissa Mee – Secretary/ Assistant Treasurer [] – Ext. 102

Robert Halbohm – Water Quality Technician [] – Ext. 120

Cassandra Pinkoski – District Field Technician [] – Ext. 116

Greg Kolenda – District Field Technician [] - Ext. 118

NRCS Employees, Jamestown Field Office:

Robert Nothdurft – Resource Conservationist [] – Ext. 114

Anna Emke-Walker – Soil Conservationist [] – Ext. 119


Conservation Districts had their beginning in the 1930’s when Congress, in response to national concern over mounting erosion, floods and sky-blackening dust storms that swept across the country, enacted the Soil Conservation Act of 1935. The act stated for the first time that a national policy was necessary to provide a permanent program for the control and prevention of soil erosion and directed the Secretary of Agriculture to establish the Soil Conservation Service to implement this policy. The conservation district concept was developed to enlist the cooperation of landowners and occupiers in carrying out the programs authorized by the act.

To encourage local participation in the program, President Roosevelt sent all state governors A Standard State Soil Conservation Districts Law, with a recommendation for enactment of legislation along its lines. On March 3, 1937, Arkansas became the first state to adopt a law modeled on the Standard Act. On August 4, 1937, the first conservation district, the Brown Creek District was established in North Carolina, which was the birthplace of Dr. Hugh Hammond Bennett, the first Chief of the Soil Conservation Service. Dr. Hugh Hammond Bennett is commonly referred to as the father of soil conservation and the mastermind behind the conservation district concept.

By 1938, twenty-seven states had followed suit, and by the late 1940s, all fifty states had adopted similar legislation. District’s laws were adopted in the 1960s by Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, and in the 1980s by the District of Columbia, Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands. The Erie County Soil & Water Conservation District in New York State was formed on January 1, 1943.

What is the Role of the Districts?

Districts work with landowners, land managers, local government agencies, and other local interests in addressing a broad spectrum of resource concerns such as:

  • Community Development
  • Erosion Control
  • Flood Prevention
  • Forestland Protection
  • Ground Water
  • Nonpoint Source Pollution
  • Recreation
  • Soil Stabilization
  • Wastewater Management
  • Water Conservation and Use
  • Water Quality and Quantity
  • Wetlands and Wildlife

How Many Districts Are There?

In New York, there are 58 conservation districts, one representing each county and five districts represent the boroughs of New York City. Collectively, the 58 districts are represented by the New York Association of Conservation Districts (NYACD). Nationwide, there are approximately 3,000 conservation districts, the number varying from time to time because of the combination, division, or the other restructuring of district boundaries. These districts, identified in some states as soil conservation districts, conservation districts, natural resources conservation districts, natural resource districts or resource conservation districts, cover 98 percent of the privately owned land in the fifty states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, the Northern Mariana Islands, and Guam.

Chautauqua County Soil & Water Conservation District

Chautauqua County is in the extreme western part of New York. It is bounded on the north by Lake Erie; on the west by Erie County, Pennsylvania; on the south by Warren County, Pennsylvania; and on the east by Cattaraugus County, New York. Its northeast corner is bounded by the Cattaraugus Indian Reservation. Chautauqua County has a total land area of 680,000 acres, or about 1,062 square miles. Mayville, New York is the county seat.

Although Chautauqua County has one of the highest numbers of farms per County in New York State, the number of farms in the County has steadily declined over the years. In 1945, there were 5,778 farms in the county. This number decreased dramatically to 1,678 farms by 2004.

As of 2017, preliminary data shows a 19% decrease of the total number of farms in Chautauqua County, down from 1,515 in 2012 to 1,228 in 2017. The average size of farms located in Chautauqua County has continually increased over the years. The average size of an individual farm was 89.4 acres in 1945, 151 acres in 2004 and was recorded as 182 acres in 2017 with a median farm size of 85 acres. Chautauqua County is situated in two contrasting physio-graphic provinces, the Erie- Ontario Plain province and the Allegheny Plateau province, and thus it supports two different kinds of farming enterprises.

Natural Resource Features of Chautauqua County

  • More than 50 percent of Chautauqua County is woodland; therefore, commercial timber production is a viable industry. Most of the natural standing timber are represented by mixed hardwoods dominated by sugar maple, red oak, black cherry, white ash, and American beech. Many wooded areas have been harvested several times for timber production.
  • No location in Chautauqua County is more than 25 minutes from open water. The County contains the larger systems of Lake Erie and Chautauqua Lake, as well as Bear, Cassadaga, Findley, and Mud (East and West) Lakes.
  • Chautauqua Lake, at 1,308 feet above sea level, is one of the highest navigable waters in North America. Measuring 17.5 miles long and covering 13,156 acres, the lake produces fishing for walleye, bass, muskellunge, and several panfish species. The lake is divided into two basins: North and South. The north basin averages 25 feet in depth, with a maximum of 75 feet. The south basin is considerably shallower, with an average of 11 feet and a maximum of 19 feet.
  • Lake Erie is the fourth largest of the Great Lakes in surface area and the smallest by volume. The Lake measures 241 miles long and has an average depth of 62 feet (maximum of 210 feet). Chautauqua County contains 1,065 square miles of Lake Erie shoreline. Lake Erie is the warmest and most biologically productive of the Great Lakes, and is known for its walleye fishing, widely considered the best in the world.
  • French Creek Watershed designated as one of the “Last Great Places” by the Nature Conservancy includes the 90-acre French Creek Preserve. French Creek is the most biologically diverse ravine system in the Northeast and includes twelve globally rare species.

Questions About What We Do?

Complete the form below or call us directly if you have any questions. Be sure to select extension 5 when calling our office.

Please be advised that our office is currently closed to the public and that monthly meetings of the Chautauqua County Soil & Water Board of Directors are being held at 3542 Turner Road in Jamestown, New York.

Call Us: (716) 664-2351