Hugh Hammond Bennett Awards

The Story of America's Private Lands Conservation Movement

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) presents a documentary on soil conservation pioneer Hugh Hammond Bennett, the history of the agency and the birth of the private lands conservation movement in the U.S.


Hugh Hammond Bennett is revered as the “Father of Soil Conservation” for his leadership and dedication to soil conservation. Bennett served as the first Chief of the Soil Conservation Service (now Natural Resources Conservation Service), within the US Department of Agriculture. He was an advocate for legislation that established Soil Erosion Experiment Stations and 3,000 conservation districts throughout the U.S.

Throughout his entire career, Bennett grounded his philosophy on the importance of soil conservation. He spent time comparing virgin, timbered sites to eroded fields, which confirmed his belief that soil erosion was a problem not only for the individual farmer but also for rural economies. Bennett successfully argued that single practices such as the terracing of land would not succeed without a comprehensive program to address numerous resource concerns on farmland. It was this guiding principle that led to the concept of conservation planning. Conservation farming meant rearranging the operations of the farm in the interest of conservation and productivity. Soil conservationists worked on the land, directly with farmers, to develop conservation farm plans for the benefit of the land and the farmer. Those principles are what we stand behind and act on as one entity through the National Conservation Planning Partnership.

The Hugh Hammond Bennett Award for Conservation Excellence recognizes individuals at the local, state and national level for extraordinary achievements in and contributions to the soil and water conservation movement in the United States.