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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 Soil & Water Conservation District is directed by a Board of Directors who elects a chair, vice-chair, and a vice treasurer from amongst themselves. The secretary treasurer to the board is 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 At-Large. The Board directs the activities of the Chautauqua County Soil and Water Conservation District staff through the Secretary/Assistant Treasurer. District staff is then responsible for the implementation of the district’s programming, and are accountable to the board for all actions of the district.

The CCSWCD Board of Directors meets monthly on the fourth Wednesday at 8:30 AM. Please either contact the office or check local papers to verify.

Organizational Structure:

The Secretary/ Assistant Treasurer and the District Staff report to the Board of Directors. The following is a list of Directors and their titles:

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

Debra Kelley – 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

Julie Gibson – District Field Technician [] – Ext. 119

NRCS Employees, Jamestown Field Office:

Robert Nothdurft – NRCS Resource Conservationist [] – Ext. 114


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 a national policy 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 an 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 included the birthplace of Dr. Hugh Hammond Bennett, the first Chief of the Soil Conservation Service - commonly referred to as the father of soil conservation. 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 SWCD 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:

  • erosion control
  • flood prevention
  • water conservation and use
  • wetlands
  • ground water
  • water quality and quantity
  • nonpoint source pollution
  • forestland protection
  • wildlife
  • recreation
  • waste water management and community development

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 as a result 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 Marian Islands, and Guam.

Chautauqua County Soil & Water Conservation District

Chautauqua County is in two contrasting physiographic provinces, the Erie- Ontario Plain province and the Allegheny Plateau province, and thus it supports two different kinds of farming enterprises. In the plateau province, the principal agricultural enterprise is dairy farming.

Chautauqua County has a total land area of 680,000 acres, or about 1,062 square miles. Mayville is the county seat.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation manages about 18,000 acres of land used for reforestation and wildlife areas. Also, Chautauqua County manages about 1,500 acres as county reforestation areas and parks.

In 1982, about 45 percent of the land area in the county was used for farms. Of this area, about 45 percent is cropland, 20 percent is pastureland, and 25 percent is farm woodlots. Although Chautauqua County has one of the highest number of farms per county in New York, this number has steadily declined over the years. In 1945, there were 5,778 farms in the county compared to 1,678 in 2004; however, the average size of the individual farms increased from 89.4 acres in 1945 to 151 in 2004.

Chautauqua County is in two contrasting physiographic provinces, the Erie- Ontario Plain province and the Allegheny Plateau province, and thus it supports two different kinds of farming enterprises. In the plateau province the principal agricultural enterprise is dairy farming. Corn and hay are the main crops, but some small grain is grown. In 2004, about 38,700 acres was used for hay, 22,400 acres for corn, and 3,866 acres for small grain, mainly oats. In 1945, contrast, 22,065 acres was used for small grain, 18,912 acres for corn and 104,642 acres for hay.

A moderate temperature, a long frost-free period, and good soils help to make the lake plain province and outstanding agricultural area. The main agricultural enterprise in this region is growing grapes; however, substantial areas are used for vegetables, orchard crops or small fruit. Chautauqua County is the leading grape-producing county in New York, with 19,166 acres of vineyards.

In addition to these products, maple syrup is an important commodity in the survey area. Chautauqua County currently is rated eighth among the counties of New York in the production of maple syrup, with an average annual output of about 15,000 gallons.

More than 50 percent of Chautauqua County is woodland; therefore, commercial timber production is a viable industry. Most of the natural stands 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.

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