As a young man, Hugh Bennett noticed precious topsoil washing away from cultivated slopes throughout the United States. Unlike others before him who had observed erosion, Bennett recognized the threat it posed to the nation's food supply, so he undertook the challenge of doing something about it.
In 1928, Bennett's pamphlet, "Soil Erosion, a National Menace" earned him an invitation to appear before a House committee in Washington, DC. His speech about erosion and the methods for managing it led Congress to fund erosion research. Soon after, Congress created the Soil Erosion Service in the Department of the Interior to put the experiments into practice. Bennett served as chief.
It was the "dust bowl" in 1934 that firmly put soil conservation into the national spotlight. Responding to President Roosevelt's call for measures to prevent "another Sahara Desert," Congress created the Soil Conservation Service. Bennett became the SCS's first administrator. By the time he retired from the position in 1951, the SCS had 14,665 employees, an annual budget of nearly 60 million dollars, and a watershed program well underway.
Because of Bennett's personal crusade, many of the farmers and ranchers who produce America's food today are actively engaged in soil conservation efforts, protecting an essential and irreplaceable resource for the benefit of people and wildlife.
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