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Featured Resource: Conquest of the Land through Seven Thousand Years

Updated: Jan 20, 2023

Why is soil health important? What can we learn from history? At different times throughout history, civilizations and cultures have thrived or declined based on their care and stewardship of soil and water. Dr. Walter Clay Lowdermilk served as the assistant chief of the U.S. Soil Conservation Service (SCS) in the 1930s and 1940s. As a soil conservationist and student of history, Dr. Lowdermilk spent 18-months visiting other countries to study and research the effects of land use and careful stewardship over a 7,000 year period. Dr. Lowdermilk’s objective was to unearth lost wisdom and learn what lessons might

be gleaned from history in response to the Dust Bowl and to identify preventative soil conserving measures for the U.S. moving forward. The societies and cultures that survived and thrived followed core soil health-building principles and maintained key land use priorities such as regular crop rotations, terracing to eliminate erosion and encourage infiltration, managing grazing to prevent overgrazing, and maintaining forests and tree canopy to regulate temperatures and reduce soil loss by wind. Conquest of the Land through Seven Thousand Years by Dr. Lowdermilk and the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) remains a vital soil health publication for farm production, natural resource conservation, ecological restoration, and educating everyone on the importance of learning from history to address present resource concerns and courageously lean into the future.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, Soil Conservation Service. (1939). Conquest of the Land through Seven Thousand Years. A personal report gathered by Dr. W.C. Lowdermilk first published a

s USDA Bulletin No. 99, 1939. Reprinted in February 1948, as S.C.S. MP-32. Available online at USDA-NRCS website as a free downloadable file at

Images courtesy of the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service.

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