Soil and Water Conservation Districts, or SWCDs, are a political subdivision of state government authorized under the SWCD Act to provide assistance to the public in conserving and protecting soil, water, and other natural resources. There are 97 county based SWCD offices serving all 102 counties in the state.

SWCDS are non-taxing, non-regulatory, volunteer led, local government entities.


Soil and water conservation districts are charged with the responsibility to care for the states land, water, air, plant and animal resources through responsible land use. SWCDs work side by side with federal and state employees to install conservation practices that are funded through local, state or federal funds, as well as matching landowner contributions.

SWCDs provide rural and urban citizens alike with both technical assistance and services on a number of issues including; soil health, erosion and sedimentation control, water quality protection, storm water management, green infrastructure, farmland protection, flood prevention, land use issues, environmental protection programs and stream bank stabilization. SWCDs work with private landowners, homeowners, developers, and more on a voluntary basis to address locally identified resource concerns. This is accomplished through educational efforts, by providing technical assistance through trained staff, and offering financial assistance for eligible projects. 

Among other things, SWCDs work to:

  • Protect groundwater resources to the benefit of communities.
  • Implement farm conservation practices to keep soil in the fields and out of waterways and prevent erosion.
  • Help landowners and others restore and protect habitat for pollinators and other wildlife.
  • Plant trees and other land cover to hold soil in place, clean the air, provide cover for wildlife and beautify neighborhoods.
  • Conserve and restore wetlands, which purify water and provide habitat for birds, fish and numerous other animals.
  • Design and implement conservation strategies that will offset the costly effects of flooding events.

SWCDs are the front line program delivery system for a number of state and federal agencies which include; Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR), Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA), Department of Agriculture (IDOA), as well as the United States Deparmtent of Agriculture’s Natural Resouce Conservation Service (USDA-NRCS) and Farm Service Agency (USDA-FSA).


SWCDs work with individuals, private organizations, public entities, and more in the interest of protecting and conserving environmental and natural resources.

Specific examples of some agencies and organizations that SWCDs assist and the programs they assist with are as follows:

  • Farm Bill Programs administered by NRCS including EQIP, WHIP, CSP and WRP
  • Farm Bill Programs administered by FSA including CRP, CREP and SAFE (SWCDs currently hold over 1,200 CREP easements.)
  • Landowner Incentive Program administered by US Fish and Wildlife Service
  • Habitat and Forestry Management Programs administered by US forest Service
  • Construction Permitting, Habitat Restoration and Land Treatment Programs administered by the US Army Corps of Engineers
  • Storm Water Management, Watershed Planning, Water Quality Improvement and Protection and Construction Permitting Programs administered by US EPA
  • Carbon Credit payments to landowners provided by CCX and various aggregators.
  • Numerous grants and landowner payment programs administered by National Wild Turkey Federation, Pheasants Forever, Trees Forever, Ducks Unlimited, National Audubon Society, The Nature Conservancy, Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education and other organizations.