By Harol Thompson
What do strawberries, sweet potatoes, cotton, catalpa worms, tung oil, flooded playgrounds, white lupine, ponds, pine trees, gullies, tree sales, Trailblazer, scholarships and more have to do with Webster Parish? How many people know that Webster Parish and Lincoln Parish had two of the first conservation projects in the nation with Minden Project 1 leading the way.
All of the above came about because of an agency known as Dorcheat Soil and Water Conservation District located in Minden, Louisiana.
1933 has been called the year of disaster especially in the Minden area. Not only was there a lethal tornado, a devastating fire, there was a drought so severe the ground broke open. Then there were extreme rain showers which damaged an already fragile land system. Fifty to seventy-five percent of the topsoil washed away leaving large gullies and general erosion in the area. Clear cutting of trees and extreme tilling of the soil did even more damage. It takes hundreds of years to build one inch of topsoil but help was on the way. It started at the national level with our nation’s first President George Washington who became concerned about the wise use of our natural resources also known as conservation and about the complete clearing of land for homes. Other presidents supported conservation but Franklin Delano Roosevelt put it into practice. In 1933, the U. S. Soil Erosion Service was set up. This new agency would put Webster Parish and Lincoln Parish in the “national limelight” as participants in the first conservation projects that were awarded grants. Although the local Soil and Water Conservation District was not formally formed until 1939, work was already being done on the Project 1 in 1934. The project was a 55,000 acre demonstration project on Cooley and Brushy Creeks in Northwest Louisiana. The importance of the project is that these creeks are tributaries of the Red River drainage system which drains in Northern Texas, Southern Oklahoma, Southwest Arkansas, and Western Louisiana. So how did the first paragraph fit into this? Those were some of the ways and change of crops that were used to get rid of gullies, flooded areas, and poor pastureland and were actual crops for many years.
Pages could be written about how the district has helped not only the farmers but all the communities around. “Help” is still being given and information is always available at the Dorcheat Soil and Water Conservation District office located at 216 B Broadway Street, Minden, LA. The district partners with the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) formally known as the USDA Soil Conservation Service, to offer technical services and cost-share to landowners in the Dorcheat SWCD/Webster Parish.
The week of April 30 through May 7, 2023 is celebrated nationally as “Soil and Water Stewardship Week.” This year’s theme is “One Water.” This reminds us we all live in a watershed and share the water in our watershed with other people, animals and plants because it is “One Water.” For more information, contact the Dorcheat SWCD at 318-377-3950 Ext. 3.