This article examines the environment and agricultural activity in the Palouse, a fertile, hilly prairie in the inland Northwest, during the Great Depression and World War II. This area is home to some of the most productive wheatland in the nation, but because of constant farming activity on its steep slopes, soil erosion has been a problem since the turn of the twentieth century. Erosion threatened the long-term viability of farming in the Palouse and the economic health of greater eastern Washington. Local efforts at stemming the problem were nonexistent in the 1910s and 1920s, but after the depression began, New Deal erosion control programs attempted to improve the erosion situation in the Palouse and countless other areas in the United States. A great deal of time and money were devoted to the problem, including the construction of a USDA erosion experiment station in Pullman, Washington. However, federal erosion control efforts were only minimally successful, in part because programs to stop erosion were voluntary, not compulsory. Not enough farmers initiated or maintained soil conservation techniques, and Palouse farmers continued to endanger their most crucial natural resource.

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