Dr. Hugh Bennet was an American soil conservationist. People have gone as far as to call him the father of soil conservation. In fact, he was
instrumental in setting up several organizations dedicated to preventing soil erosion which still exist today. Benet was one of the first scientists to recognize the process of soil erosion.
Bennet was born on April 13, 1881, in Anson County, North Carolina. He attended the University of North Carolina and graduated in 1903. He then began working in the Bureau of Soils of the U.S. Department of Agriculture as a soil surveyor. Soon, he
recognized the degradation of the land due to soil erosion, and in 1929 he published "Soil Erosion, a National Menace," a bulletin that helped establish Dr. Bennet's scientific reputation.
In 1933, Bennet was made head of a Soil Erosion Service set up by the U.S. Department of Interior. This Service conducted a national demonstration program of soil erosion. In 1935, Bennet was the one who convinced Congress to pass a legislation that set up the Soil Conservation Service,
a permanent agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Bennet became the head of this organization as well. He remained in this position until he retired in 1952.
While heading these organizations, Dr. Bennet proved to be an efficient administrator as well as a scientist. He set up local soil conservation districts where local officials guided local programs, with the technical support of the Soil Conservation Service. Today, there are over 3,000 districts
internationally. This National Association of Conservation Districts is very powerful in conservation matters today.
Bennet was also known for his skills as a dramatic public speaker, as well as for his several books and articles on soil conservation. He received numerous awards for his work, both nationally and internationally.
Because of Dr. Bennet's crusade for soil conservation, soil erosion was recognized as a major threat to the future of humankind, and many
countries followed America's example in setting up soil conservation programs.
Hugh Hammond Bennet died on July 7, 1960. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.