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Of Interest

Of Interest

Savvy Soil Conservation Pioneer

The fact a dust storm from the Great Plains rolled through Washington, DC just as Hugh Hammond Bennett (April 15, 1881 – July 7, 1960) was testifying before a Congressional committee in 1935 was no accident.  He knew the great Dust Bowl storm was on its way and he knew that it would provide dramatic proof of the urgent need to pass the bill creating the Soil Conservation Service (now the Natural Resources Conservation Service).  Hugh Hammond Bennett was not just a brilliant scientist.  He had the oratorical talent and political savvy to make things happen.


After graduating from the University of North Carolina, Bennett started his career as a Soil Surveyor for USDA studying declining crop yields. He foresaw the economic impact it would have on rural America.  In 1928 he co-authored the influential USDA Bulletin titled, Soil Erosion:  A National Menace.  He continued to spread his message on the dangers of soil erosion, bringing it to the attention of the American public by writing articles for publication in popular magazines and making inspirational speeches.


His perseverance and zeal led to an appropriation in 1930 for the establishment of soil erosion experiment stations demonstrating soil conservation methods to farmers.  By 1933, Bennett had assisted in the establishment of the Soil Conservation Service in the Department of the Interior and had become its director, showing farmers soil conservation methods in watershed-based areas. 


Finally, his flair for making a point with a dust storm led to the passage of the Soil Conservation Act of April 27, 1935.  It was this bill that created the entity we know today as the Natural Resources Conservation Service and for which there was no better leader than Hugh Hammond Bennett. Bennett served as its chief until his retirement in 1951.


Information courtesy of the NRCS website/Biography of Hugh Hammond Bennett/History/NRCS.  For more information, go to http://www@.nrcs.usda.gov/about/history/Bennett.html