West Otter Tail Soil and Water Conservation District celebrates 75 years

FERGUS FALLS -- Many county residents, on Aug. 7, gathered at the West Otter Tail Fairgrounds near Fergus Falls to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the West Otter Tail Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD).

Cassie Jacobson of the federal Natural Resources Conservation Service, part of USDA, used a rainfall simulator to show the effects of runoff and infiltration with samples of soybeans, corn and pasture. Tom Hintgen/Perham Focus

Cassie Jacobson of the federal Natural Resources Conservation Service, part of USDA, used a rainfall simulator to show the effects of runoff and infiltration with samples of soybeans, corn and pasture. Tom Hintgen/Perham Focus

The starting year was 1944, at first including 15 townships in Otter Tail County. Today there is both a West and East Soil and Water Conservation District in the county.

The mission of the west and east SWCDs in Otter Tail County, who work jointly on many projects, is to promote the wise and proper use of all natural resources within the districts.

“We strive to achieve this goal for the economic, environmental and aesthetic betterment of all residents,” said West Otter Tail SWCD Manager Brad Mergens.

During the 75th anniversary celebration, Mergens presented the 2019 Conservationist of the Year Award to Adam and Ashley Fromming who farm near Underwood.

The history of the West Otter Tail SWCD was addressed by Chris Schuelke, executive director of the Otter Tail County Historical Society.

“The U.S. Congress passed the Soil Conservation Act in April 1935, during the Great Depression and when there was a severe drought across the United States,” Schuelke said. “This was nine years before the establishment of the West Otter Tail Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD).” 

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