Partner Spotlight: The Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board

The Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board (TSSWCB) is the state agency that administers Texas’ soil and water conservation law and coordinates conservation and nonpoint source water pollution abatement programs throughout the state. Headquartered in Temple, the agency offers technical assistance to the state’s 216 soil and water conservation districts (SWCDs).

A seven-member state board governs the TSSWCB and is composed of two governor appointees and five landowners elected from across Texas by the more than 1,000 local SWCD Directors. On April 26, 2017, Governor Greg Abbott appointed Tina Buford, Texan by Nature’s board president, to the Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board.

The TSSWCB is the lead state agency for the planning, management, and abatement of agricultural and silvicultural (forestry) nonpoint source water pollution, and administers the Water Supply Enhancement Program. The TSSWCB maintains regional offices in strategic locations across the state to manage these responsibilities.

In the 1930’s our country, and Texas and Oklahoma in particular, experienced some of the worst dust storms in recorded history. Protection of topsoil became a priority and as a result, SWCDs were formed so landowners could work together at the local level to solve this major problem.

The TSSWCB was created in 1939 by the Texas Legislature to organize the state into SWCDs and provide a centralized resource for communicating with the Texas Legislature and other state and federal entities. Each SWCD is independent of state government and is governed by five directors elected by rural landowners.

Local SWCDs are actively involved throughout Texas in soil and water conservation activities relevant to rural, agricultural environments. Conservation activities include: operation and maintenance of flood control structures; sponsoring pesticide workshops, producer field days, land and range judging contests, and scholarships; and securing money for the construction of outdoor classrooms.

The TSSWCB provides assistance to SWCDs on a wide range of topics including:

  • Financial and program matters
  • Administration of grants
  • Guidance on project planning and implementation
  • Regulatory issues related to nonpoint source water pollution

In addition, the TSSWCB assists SWCDs in obtaining funding for a wide variety of special conservation initiatives. The TSSWCB administers a state-funded technical assistance program and provides additional assistance to SWCDs through offices located in Hale Center, Harlingen, Mount Pleasant, Nacogdoches, San Angelo, Dublin, and Wharton.

The Texas Legislature and the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) provide funding to the TSSWCB to demonstrate and implement activities that control and abate nonpoint source water pollution. The federal funding originates from the Clean Water Act Section 319(h) grant program. The funding from this program is split evenly between the TSSWCB and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). The TCEQ uses its half of the funding to focus on urban nonpoint source pollution.

Finally, as a result of the dramatic decline in the Monarch butterfly population, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) have provided grant funds to the TSSWCB to assist in enhancing and restoring Monarch butterfly habitat.

The project is providing funding to develop conservation plans and plant pollinator-friendly plant species on over 1,600 acres of rural Texas lands along the Monarch’s migratory pathway. The funds were made available to farmers, ranchers, or private landowners and pay $375 per acre to cover seed cost, planting, and maintenance of the land on tracts of land between 1 and 30 acres. Entities such as schools or municipalities qualified for funding to develop a Monarch butterfly garden between 100 and 300 square feet. TSSWCB project manager, Liza Parker, spoke about the project on June 1, 2017, at Texan by Nature’s South-Central Monarch Symposium.

The Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board oversees and is actively involved in in a wide range of voluntary soil and water conservation practices essential to maintaining our quality of life and prosperity in Texas. Texan by Nature is proud to have the Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board as a valued South-Central Monarch Symposium partner.

More information about TSSWCB’s programs and initiatives is available here.