Who We Are



A political subdivision of the Commonwealth of Virginia (formed under the authority of Title 21, Code of Virginia, passed by the General Assembly in 1938).

The Blue Ridge District is comprised of and serves Franklin, Henry, Roanoke Counties and the City of Roanoke including all their incorporated towns. Cities of Salem and Martinsville are not included at this time.

Governed by a ten member Board of Directors.

Two are elected from each entity, two are appointed by the Virginia Soil and Water Conservation Board and Directors serve without pay

  • Share an office with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, 1297 State Street, Rocky Mount, Virginia  24151 – Telephone (540) 352-3312

Elected Directors unless otherwise noted:

Roger B. Holnback, Chairman (Roanoke County)

Joel Hubert Bowman –  Vice Chairman, (Franklin County)

R. Darryl Holland – Henry County

Andrew Barker – Henry County

Nicholas H. Beasley – Roanoke County

Daphne W. Jamison – Franklin County

Sarah Baumgardner – City of Roanoke

Freeda Cathcart – City of Roanoke

Bryon R. Brooks – Franklin County- Director at-large appointed by VASWCB

Cynthia Martel – VA Cooperative Extension-appointed by VASWCB

Associate Director(s)

Summer Pate

Tonya Young

Blue Ridge SWCD Staff

Bridgette “Renee” Fulcher – Administrative Financial Assistant

Kathy B. Smith – Program Manager/Education Coordinator

Michael L. Tabor – Senior Conservation Specialist

 – Conservation Technician




The Blue Ridge Soil and Water Conservation District was organized under authority of the Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District Law (Senate Bill No. 38 passed by the 1938 session of the General Assembly) and was formed on September 28, 1939 encompassing Bedford, Franklin and Henry Counties.  Pittsylvania was added to the District on August 7, 1941 and Roanoke County was added on December 30, 1943.  Pittsylvania County withdrew from the District on August 15, 1961 to form the Pittsylvania Soil and Water Conservation District.  Bedford County withdrew from the District on September 24, 1968 to form the Peaks of Otter Soil  & Water Conservation District. The City of Roanoke was added to the District in January 2005.

Total land area within the District is 867,342 acres excluding water impoundments over 40 acres in size.  Private, state, and federal acreages are as follows:


                                             Total Land

County                                Area Acre           Private      Local               State                     Federal


Franklin                               439,134                433,234        1,294             3,429                    1,177

Henry                                  244,693                240,906                              2,282                    1,505

Roanoke                             160,384                146,399                               8,516                    5,485

City of Roanoke                    23,131                  22,939                                    41                       151


District Totals

                Natural resources include extensive acres of forest and agricultural lands, the waters that originate on and flow through them, minerals, and abundant fish and wildlife species.  Of major interest to district programs is water quality.  Many of the soils are highly erodible (HEL) and require intensive conservation practices to improve water quality and prevent any excessive soil loss.

The District lies primarily within the Roanoke River Basin and is well supplied with surface water through the principal rivers and creeks.  The drainage pattern is dominated to the north by the Roanoke River as it flows into Smith Mountain Lake and to the south by the Smith River, a tributary of the Dan River.  The major resulting tributary rivers in the district are the Blackwater, Pigg and Mayo Rivers.  A wide distribution of streams and creeks dissect the district providing valuable supplies of generally soft water.  The most important of these are Catawba Creek (in the Roanoke Valley, flows into the James River), Tinker Creek, Masons Creek, Back Creek, Maggodee Creek, Gills Creek, Chestnut Creek, Snow Creek, Leatherwood Creek, Marrowbone Creek and Horse Pasture Creek.  Although in fairly good supply, the water of the Roanoke River is relatively hard because the headwaters flow through a limestone formation. Refer to map on page 5.

The District is divided into 30 hydrologic units which are prioritized for conservation efforts to enhance water quality.

Much of the agricultural economy of the Blue Ridge District is centered on enterprises such as dairy, beef, locavore (community supported agriculture) and forest products.  Industries include lumber, variety of manufacturing industries, recreation, tourism, dining, and service facilities such as banking and health care facilities.

It is important to note these are natural resources-based and resource-dependent industries. General supporting business enterprises add much to the income of the District residents.  Those people who work in the cities of Roanoke, Salem, and Martinsville, but who live in Roanoke, Henry, and Franklin Counties or City of Roanoke have an impact on the economy of the District residents.  Adequacy of income, housing, nutrition, and education is directly dependent upon the development and proper use of the soil, water and other related resources.


Development along Smith Mountain Lake and urbanization of the whole District is flourishing.  Permanent residential, summer vacation homes or second homes are being established.  Subdivisions within easy commuting distance to Roanoke, Lynchburg, Danville and Martinsville are being developed.  Existing industries and businesses are expanding, and new industries are continually moving into the area.  These two factors place pressure on the use of existing agricultural land.  Agriculture acreage and the number of people employed in agriculture will continue to decrease.  However, intensive use of agricultural lands remaining will require greater conservation efforts to safeguard this natural resource and other conservation efforts will be required for newly urbanized land.


The District incurs certain expenses in promoting soil and water conservation.  Funds are received from each entity in the District.  The Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), Division of Stormwater Management also furnishes funds to the District.  Other state and federal funds are used for water quality projects on a watershed basis for cost-share, and the administrative assistance needed to implement the cost-share grants.  State funds are also allocated to the district for repairs and maintenance to small watershed dams that are sponsored by the District under Public Law 566.

The District cooperates with the following agencies and organizations:

USDA – Natural Resources Conservation Service                                                  Smith Mountain Lake Association

  • USDA – Farm Services Agency                                                                              * School Boards
  • USDA – Rural Development                                                                                  * Western Virginia Land Trust
  • U.S. Forest Service                                                                                                *  Western Virginia Water Authority
  • Virginia Cooperative Extension                                                                             *  Virginia Dept. of Environmental Quality
  • Virginia Soil and Water Conservation Board                                                          * Smith Mountain Lake Policy Advisory Board
  • Virginia Department of Forestry                                                                             *  Blue Ridge Land Conservancy
  • Department of Conservation & Recreation                                                            * Ferrum College
  • Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries                                               * Dan River Basin Association
  • Virginia Department of Transportation
  • Roanoke Valley – Alleghany Regional Commission
  • Tri-County Lake Commission
  • West Piedmont Planning District
  • U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
  • Local Governing Boards (Franklin, Henry, Roanoke Counties & City of Roanoke)
  • Virginia Department of Agriculture & Consumer Service
  • W.E. Skelton4-H Educational Conference Center
  • Virginia Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts
  • Virginia Department of Health
  • Franklin, Henry & Roanoke Master Gardeners
  • The District Board operates through standing committees.  They are as follows:  Personnel, Newsletter, Conservation Awards & Annual Tours, Annual Plan of Work, Agricultural & Technical Review (including Resource Management Plans), Annual Report, Watershed Dams, Soil Stewardship, Scholarship/Youth, and Budget

District Programs

The Blue Ridge Soil & Water Conservation District sets priorities and objectives that are defined in a strategic plan.  An annual plan of work is completed by forming committees such as Budget, Soil Stewardship, Youth, Annual Report, Conservation Awards, Annual Tour, Newsletter, Scholarship, Personnel, and other committees as needed. The Board of Directors encourages land users to adopt Best Management Practices such as conservation tillage in their farm plans.   This District works from a budget to effectively manage funds, facilities and equipment.  The Blue Ridge SWCD supports the Virginia Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts, the Virginia Soil and Water Conservation Board, and the National Association of Conservation Districts.  The directors attend area, state, and national meetings. The Commonwealth of Virginia supports the Blue Ridge Soil and Water Conservation District through financial and administrative assistance provided by the Department of Conservation and Recreation. Funding for the programs outlined in this report comes from a variety of sources, namely: DCR, local county governments,  corporate sponsorship and donations.  Other funding comes from a variety of sources, mainly federal and state grants.