By Ben Setzler, Commissioner of Newberry Soil and Water
“From every conceivable angle - economic, social, cultural, public health, national defense - conservation of natural resources is an objective on which all should agree.” These vigilant words were spoken during a lecture series in 1959 by Hugh Hammond Bennett, the Father of Soil Conservation. Bennett became a national pioneer, advocate, and champion for soil and water conservation during America’s literal darkest days, the Dust Bowl era.
Bennett’s work has grown into a nationwide conservation partnership for soil and water. In South Carolina, the conservation partnership of locally-led soil and water conservation can be easily compared to a three-legged stool with each leg representing a unique conservation partner from federal, state, and local levels.
The federal leg of this partnership is represented by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), whose job is to provide technical assistance and cost-share funding incentives to local landowners. The state leg is represented by the SC Department of Natural Resources (DNR), who serves in an advisory role to provide guidance and oversight, serve as liaison to other state agencies, and provide state resources to local districts. The local leg is represented by the Newberry Soil and Water Conservation District (NSWCD), who has the role of promoting the wise use of soil and water within their district.
Each district is governed by five commissioners, three of which are elected and two of which are appointed by DNR. In Newberry, these commissioners are Rev. James Shealy, Doug Heydt, Toni Warren, Mark Kiser, and Ben Setzler. The commissioners are the only elected officials in SC that are not paid to hold their position and they serve in non-partisan seats.
Each district has the obligation to tailor their programs and mission to exactly what its citizens need. Newberry’s district houses two programs, each uniquely positioned to address Newberry’s own resources. The NSWCD focuses primarily on Newberry’s vast farmland and timber resources. Our programs vary widely, from a Feral Hog Grant to research and help stop damage from wild hogs, to the Indian Creek Restoration Project that promotes quail habitat in the northern part of the county, to classes focusing on rain barrels, gardening, and classroom education.
Several years ago, the NSWCD saw that the county’s urban footprint was growing as we saw a rise in population and investment from large businesses. To respond to these growing needs, NSWCD partnered with Keep America Beautiful to found Keep Newberry County Beautiful (KNCB). KNCB’s role is to focus resources on urban programs such as recycling, litter prevention, and our Great American Cleanup, a litter removal program.
The NSWCD has been hard at work with over 20 programs, winning the 2020 District of the Year for SC, and bringing in over $3 million to Newberry county through grants and federal, state, and local funding; but there is still plenty more to do! We face constant challenges to the wise use and preservation of Newberry’s natural resources, but there are ways anybody can get involved! Our affiliate member program is a great way to make small but meaningful financial donations and to keep up with the happenings of the district. We also welcome individual volunteers as well as community groups to help in our various projects. To find out about these opportunities, visit our website at newberryswcd.com, email us at email@example.com, or call the office at 803-276-1978.
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