Home / General / Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 114

Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 114


This is the grave of Hugh Bennett.

The father of American soil conservation, Bennett was born in 1881 in North Carolina. He graduated from the University of North Carolina in 1903 and went to work on soil conservation. This was a major problem in American agriculture. For basically the entirety of American agricultural history, farmers had not paid any attention to soil conservation. The cheap and often free land in a robust white settler colonialist society and economy gave farmers no incentive to stay on their land. This was especially true in the plantation agriculture of the South. Even today, after nearly a century of meaningful soil conservation plans, the scars of the first two centuries of plantation agriculture are still very much upon the land, including at Providence Canyon State Park in southwest Georgia, where what is today considered one of Georgia’s “7 Wonders” (who knew Georgia had any wonders?) is nothing more than massive erosion from cotton agriculture.

He rose to prominence in the 1920s as he began publishing widely on the problems of soil erosion. When he co-wrote Soil Erosion: A National Menace in 1928, he garnered the attention of leading politicians in Congress. This made his star rise. When Franklin Roosevelt became president in 1933, he already had a long-standing interest in conservation, including managing his own forested estate in Hyde Park. So Bennett was a natural fit in the administration. Roosevelt established the Soil Erosion Service in the Department of the Interior in 1933 and named Bennett its head. He became nationally known for speaking about the Dust Bowl, ravaging the southern Plains at that time. When the Soil Conservation Service was established in 1935, Bennett was the only logical head. He poured his energy into the Dust Bowl, bringing soil conservation to farmers who were often resistant to any kind of change at all, especially from the government unless it was a check. Identifying the parts of the Dust Bowl with the worst erosion and least potential, the government began buying up lands and returning them to something like their natural state, creating the National Grassland system, which aren’t among the most striking of federal lands to the casual visitor, but which are vitally important ecosystems. The SCS created research stations around the country to demonstrate to farmers how to improve their soil management, a process he started within the government during the 1920s. He called his employees “Soil Doctors” that were attending to the health of the land. He continued to write books such as 1941’s Soil and Security, stressing the importance of soil conservation to the nation’s future. Bennett retired as head of the Soil Conservation Service in 1951. He died in 1960.

Hugh Bennett is buried on the confiscated lands of the traitor Lee, Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia.

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