The commission establishes policy and makes funding and regulatory decisions relative to soil conservation, nutrient management, water rights, dam safety and water resources planning and development.
The Arkansas General Assembly enacted the nation's first conservation district law in 1937. (Acts 1937, No. 197) This law provided landowners with a mechanism for creating local political subdivisions of the State of Arkansas to conserve land and water resources.
The organization that became the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission resulted from the General Assembly's decision to abolish the Water Conservation Commission and the Water Compact Commission in 1963. This Act transferred all functions, powers, and duties of those commissions and the Arkansas Geological and Conservation Commission's authority with regard to soil conservation and flood control, to the Arkansas Soil and Water Conservation Commission.
In 1971, the General Assembly reorganized the Arkansas government and transferred the Commission to the Department of Commerce. However, the Department of Commerce was abolished in 1983, and the Soil and Water Conservation Commission became an independent agency, functioning in the same manner as it had prior to its transfer.
Because the Commission already had responsibility for other state water and sewer infrastructure loan and grant programs, the construction Assistance Revolving Loan Fund Program of the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality was transferred to the Arkansas Soil and Water Conservation Commission in 2001.
In 2005, at another time when state re-organization of the executive branch seemed imminent the Commission remained the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission.
The Arkansas Natural Resources Commission is composed of nine members appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Senate. The members serve staggered four-year terms of office. Each of Arkansas's four congressional districts is represented by two commissioners with the ninth commissioner holding an at-large position.
The Executive Director is appointed by, and serves at the will of, and reports to the Governor. Commission employees are divided into three major sections, Conservation, Water Resources Development and Water Resources Management, which are assisted by the Administrative and Fiscal Sections.