Our History

In August, 1967, the Buckeye Hills RC&D was authorized by the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture with the overall goal of improving the economic conditions through the development, conservation, and proper use of natural resources. Belmont, Monroe, Noble and Washington Counties were the original counties included in the RC&D Area. The County Commissioners and the Soil & Water Conservation Districts in these counties acted as sponsors for the new RC&D Area, and an Executive Council was established to represent the Area sponsors and to carry out the proposed plan of action.

The purpose of the newly formed RC&D Area was to plan for the orderly development of the social, economic, and natural resources of the five counties. An area plan was developed and put into effect in July, 1968, and addressed a broad range of issues from critical area stabilization to development of community farm markets. Resource committees were formed by the Council to study various problems and opportunities, evaluate proposals, make recommendations, and assume leadership in implementing project measures.

Over the years, progress was made on many of the original goals and objectives developed for the Area. As time changed, the focus and strategies of the Buckeye Hills RC&D Executive Council changed also. During the 1970’s, environmental issues were brought into sharp focus, and thus, RC&D priorities moved towards development of regulations for oil and gas well drilling, abandoned mine land reclamation, air pollution control and multi-floral rose control. The Executive Council was ready and willing to initiate actions to deal with these important issues and good progress was made by the RC&D Council in having input and making recommendations on important legislation.

In 1982, the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District (MWCD) was added as a sponsor to the RC&D. In 1983, Athens, Hocking, Meigs, and Perry Counties petitioned the Buckeye Hills RC&D Executive Council to join the RC&D Area. These counties were officially approved for financial and technical assistance by the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture in January, 1984, and expanded Buckeye Hills to a nine-county area. The Rush Creek Conservancy District (RCCD) was also added as a sponsor at this time making a total of twenty sponsors. In February, 1989, Fairfield County petitioned the Executive Council to consider adding them to the RC&D Area and in October, 1989, they were officially added to the RC&D, making a ten-county RC&D Area. In August, 2002, Fairfield County was realigned with the newly authorized Heart of Ohio RC&D Area.

Since its beginning, The Buckeye Hills RC&D has fostered relationships. In 1996, they entered into a partnership with Marietta College to employ students through the federal work-study program. Additional office assistance was made possible in 1997 when the RC&D secured $25,000 in funding from the State Legislature. The grant allowed the Executive Council to obtain administrative support, including staff assistance. This grant totaled $100,000 over four years.

With funding through the USDA Forest Service, the RC&D Council worked closely with township trustees and volunteer fire departments to plan and install dry fire hydrants in order to support rural fire protection. Over 200 dry fire hydrants were developed across the nine-county RC&D Area site. Location maps were developed for each county and provided to local fire departments.

The Council developed and established an endowment fund with the help of the Marietta Community Foundation. The “Natural Resources Conservation and Development Fund” allowed awards of small grants to be issued to member counties, helping with the completion of local projects. The fund enhances the Council’s ability to expand its services to needy beneficiaries and set achievable program goals and contribution levels. Annual donations from supporters of the RC&D program help keep the funds growing.

To further economic development in the RC&D Area, the Council partnered with the USDA Rural Development to establish a revolving loan fund. To date, the RC&D has made 14 loans for over $400,000, creating 40 jobs in local regions. The amount loaned must be tied to job creation, retention or expansion, and the borrower must have a current business plan.

Today, the major concerns of the RC&D Council consist of land use planning, floodplain development, business development, job creation, and energy efficiency. The Council continues to focus attention on improving water and air quality, maintaining a sustainable agriculture, development of low input farming methods, and overall rural development. The social and economic well-being of the nine-county area, particularly as affected by the wise use of natural resources, remains at the forefront of the Council’s planning for the future. In addition, the Council recognizes the need for flexibility necessary to keep pace with change.