On August 4, 1937, the first Soil and Water Conservation District in America was organized in North Carolina. The Brown Creek District was established. Historically this district included Union, Anson, Stanley, Montgomery and Richmond counties. Today this district is made up of only Anson County. It is noteworthy to mention that Anson County is the home county of Hugh Hammond Bennett. By July 1, 1945 all 48 contiguous states had enacted Soil Conservation District laws.
On April 25, 1940, the Lower Catawba District was formed. This district included Lincoln, Gaston, and Mecklenburg counties. Each county had supervisor representation which comprised the District Supervisor Board. By 1953 the entire state of North Carolina was encompassed in Soil and Water Conservation Districts. Many districts included more that one county and were referred to as multi-county Districts. In the mid 1950s the multi county Districts began to separate and form single county Districts.
Originally the Districts major responsibility was the control of soil erosion carried by wind and water on agricultural lands. But with growth, increasing population and less farming, the Districts efforts included solving complex natural resource problems caused by expanding suburbia. Soil and Water Conservation Districts are legal subdivisions of State government with the responsibility on conserving and protecting the soil, water, and related natural resources located within the Districts boundaries. Each District is governed by a Board of Supervisors, which is a mixture of non salaried public officials both appointed and elected by the respective districts. Today in North Carolina there are 96 working Soil and Water Conservation Districts.
On October 25, 1963 the Board of Supervisors for the Lower Catawba District petitioned the North Carolina Soil and Water Conservation Committee to divide the Lower Catawba District into three, one county districts. The supervisors from the Gaston County area at this time were D. S. Rhyne and R.A. Jackson. On December 23, 1963 the Gaston Soil and Water Conservation District was chartered under Chapter 139, Section 14 of the General Statutes of North Carolina and constituted a governmental subdivision of the State of North Carolina.
Today the Gaston Soil and Water Conservation District is called Gaston Natural Resources. This name change occurred when the Gaston Soil and Water Conservation District employees became a county employees on July 1, 1991. This state mandated district administered by county employees continues to work with farmers in the field of agriculture to create and maintain productive environmentally friendly farming systems. In addition to assisting agriculture, Gaston Natural Resources has partnered with building contractors, graders and engineers to balance rapid population growth and a healthy ecosystem of healthy soil and water utilization. The Current Board of Supervisors is comprised of Bill Craig - Chairman, Lee Roach - Vice Chairman, Nancy Crocker, Roger Hurst, and Michael Ferguson.
Through the years the Gaston Soil and Water Conservation District has received many awards and accolades. It was distinguished 3 years by the Goodyear Conservation Grand Award, and 12 years for the Conservation Honor Awards. These programs honor conservation districts nationally to encourage outstanding accomplishments in natural resources' management. Dayne S. Rhyne of Gaston County served as President of the North Carolina Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts in 1945. In 1989 Rebecca H. Rhyne of Gaston Soil and Water became the first woman to serve as the President of the North Carolina Association of Conservation Districts.
Many government programs are implemented through this department to assist county residents in moving forward with sound conservation practices. Gaston Natural Resources plays a key role in finding answers to difficult natural resource management problems. By bringing together all concerned parties, facilitating needs to match programs, available funds, technical assistance, and education, local communities benefit from the wealth of information and support available from this county department. Gaston Natural Resources supports both the urban and rural populace.