On May 1, 1946 the county Board of Supervisors passed a resolution declaring Cortland County a Soil Conservation District to provide assistance to County residents to control soil erosion and improve agricultural drainage.

Since that time, changes in land use and state and federal programs have broadened the scope of conservation district responsibilities. In 1989, the County Legislature declared SWCD the local planning, management and implementing agency to protect the water resources in Cortland County from nonpoint source pollution sources such as streambanks, construction, forestry, mined land, roadbanks, and agriculture.

 SWCD plays an active role in all areas of resource management dealing with soil, water, air, plants and animals. Priority issues in Cortland County are agricultural environmental management, soil erosion control, water quality, flooding, and invasive species management.