§19-21A-1. Legislative determinations and declaration of policy.

It is hereby declared, as a matter of legislative determination:

(a) That the farm and grazing lands of the State of West Virginia are among the basic assets of the state and that the preservation of these lands is necessary to protect and promote the health, safety and general welfare of its people; that improper land-use practices have caused and have contributed to, and are now causing and contributing to, a progressively more serious erosion of the farm and grazing lands of this state by water; that the breaking of natural grass, plant, and forest cover has interfered with the natural factors of soil stabilization, causing loosening of soil and exhaustion of humus and developing a soil condition that favors erosion; that the topsoil is being washed out of fields and pastures; that there has been an accelerated washing of sloping fields; that these processes of erosion by water and flooding is increased with removal of absorptive topsoil, causing exposure of less absorptive and less protective but more erosive subsoil; that failure by any landowner to conserve the soil and control erosion upon his lands causes a washing of soil and water from his or her lands onto other lands and makes the conservation of soil and control of erosion of such other lands difficult or impossible and increases the potential damages from flooding.

(b) That the consequences of such soil erosion in the form of soil washing are the silting and sedimentation of stream channels, reservoirs, dams, ditches, and harbors; the piling up of soil on lower slopes and its deposit over alluvial plains; the reduction in productivity or outright ruin of rich bottom lands by over-wash of -poor subsoil material, sand and gravel swept out of the hills; deterioration of soil and its fertility, deterioration of crops grown thereon and declining acre yields despite development of scientific processes for increasing such yields; loss of soil and water which causes destruction of food and cover for wildlife; the washing of soil into streams which silts over spawning beds and destroys water plants, diminishing the food supply of fish; a diminishing of the underground water reserve which causes water shortages, intensifies periods of drought and causes crop failures; an increase in the speed and volume of rainfall runoff, causing more severe and more numerous floods which bring suffering, disease, and death; impoverishment of families attempting to farm eroding and eroded lands; damage to roads, highways, railways, farm buildings, and other property from floods; and losses in navigation, hydroelectric power, municipal water supply, irrigation developments, farming, grazing and reduction of suitable land available for homes and businesses.

(c) That to conserve soil resources and control and prevent soil erosion and prevent floodwater and sediment damage and further the conservation, development, utilization, water quality, and disposal of water, it is necessary that land-use practices contributing to soil wastage and soil erosion be discouraged and discontinued and appropriate soil-conserving land-use practices and works of improvement for flood prevention or the conservation, development, utilization, water quality, and disposal of water be adopted and carried out; that among the procedures necessary for widespread adoption are engineering operations such as the construction of terraces, terrace outlets, dams, desilting basins, floodwater retarding structures, channel improvements, floodways, dikes, ponds, ditches, and the like; the utilization of strip cropping, lister furrowing, contour cultivating and contour furrowing; land drainage; land irrigation; seeding and planting of waste, sloping, abandoned or eroded lands with water-conserving and erosion-preventing plants, trees and grasses; forestation and reforestation; rotation of crops; soil stabilization with trees, grasses, legumes, and other thick-growing, soil-holding crops; retardation of runoff by increasing absorption of rainfall; and retirement from cultivation of steep, highly erosive areas and areas now badly gullied or otherwise eroded.

(d) It is hereby declared to be the policy of the Legislature to provide for the conservation of the soil and soil resources of this state, for the control and prevention of soil erosion, for the prevention of floodwater and sediment damage and for furthering the conservation, development, utilization, water quality, and disposal of water, and thereby to preserve natural resources, control floods, prevent impairment of dams and reservoirs, assist in maintaining the navigability of rivers and harbors, preserve wildlife, protect the tax base, protect public lands, and protect and promote the health, safety, and general welfare of the people of this state.

(e) This article contemplates that the incidental cost of organizing conservation districts will be borne by the state, while the expense of operating the districts so organized will be provided by donations, gifts, contributions, grants, and appropriations, in money, services, materials, or otherwise, from the United States or any of its agencies, from the State of West Virginia or from other sources, with the understanding that the owners or occupiers will contribute funds, labor, materials, and equipment to aid in carrying out erosion control measures on their lands.