logo Highlands Soil & Water Conservation District
4505 George Blvd
Sebring FL 33875
Tel: 863-402-7020
Fax: 863-385-7028
Contact Us
Office Hours: Monday - Friday 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Mission Statement:
To provide leadership to help people conserve, improve and
sustain the natural resources and environment of Highlands County, Florida

History of the Highlands Soil and Water Conservation District

Conservation Districts

Conservation Districts were created nationwide, generally one per county, as a response to the Dust Bowl that occurred in the late 1930' and early 1940's. The Dust Bowl was a result of non-sustainable farming practices that heavily impacted the land and therefore soil conservation became the focus of these local groups, as well as the newly created federal agency, the Soil Conservation Service (SCS), known today as the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS).  Conservation districts were formed in Florida as a subdivision of state government under the Florida Conservation law of 1937 to implement locally led conservation.  Conservation Districts and the NRCS work closely with each other, sharing resources and personnel, and usually office space, to accomplish the goal of conservation at a local level.  The actual work performed by a conservation district depends on local needs.  The work is directed by an elected board of supervisors who meet monthly to discuss and direct District activities.  Traditionally the board of supervisors (for Districts nationwide) has been composed of members of the agricultural community, though more recently District boards are comprised of members from diverse backgrounds, particularly in urban areas.  

Conservation Districts and the NRCS are NON-REGULATORY agencies functioning to provide assistance to farmers and the public in general to accomplish conservation goals.

Click here to view some historical photos of Katherine Waggaman, Sam Polston, and others working on Soil and Water Conservation District projects!

Click here to view a report produced by the Conservation District in 1967 to commemorate 25 years as a District, including pictures of the watershed projects developed by the District

Click here to view the original Charter of the District dated February 5, 1942; the official name change from Istokpoga Soil Conservation District to Highlands Soil Conservation District dated November 18, 1946; the official name chance to Highlands Soil & Water Conservation District dated July 12, 2013.

Click here for list of Statutes
Soil & Water Conservation Districts are governed by Chapter 582 of the Florida Statutes.
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is the State entity that oversees the Soil & Water Conservation Districts statewide.
The Soil & Water Conservation Districts are considered special districts in the State of Florida; Chapters 189 & 190 of the Florida Statutes address Special Districts and have legislation to govern ALL special districts.

Highlands Soil & Water Conservation District

The Highlands County Soil and Water Conservation District was created in 1942 and originally was known as the Istokpoga Soil Conservation District, covering only the area south and east of Lake Istokpoga.  Katherine Waggaman was instrumental in the creation of the Istokpoga Soil Conservation District and as a board supervisor, she was the first woman Conservation District supervisor in the United States.  The District was expanded in 1946 to cover the entire county and was then renamed the Highlands Soil and Water Conservation District. 

Early District activities followed along the lines of activities occurring throughout the state to reroute water and drain lands for development.  The first watershed project was the East Placid Chain of Lakes, which began construction in 1956 and was completed in 1958.  Additional watershed projects include canal and structure construction on Fisheating Creek, Upper Josephine-Jackson Creek and in the Istokpoga Marsh.  The projects were conducted primarily to ease flooding concerns around homes and in agricultural lands.  The Istokpoga Canal was also constructed through the Conservation District.  All of these projects were accomplished with engineering support and assistance provided by the Soil Conservation Service with co-sponsorship by the Highlands County Board of County Commissioners. 

The Highlands Soil and Water Conservation District has developed a long-range plan to address several sets of specific goals:

Educational goals:

Goals specific to agriculture:

Natural resource protection and water quality goals:

Political leadership goals:

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