Two important books:- Saðmenn sandanna (people of the sands) by Friðrik Olgeirsson and Heal The Land by Roger Crofts FRSE see which chronicles the evolution of the soil conservation efforts in Iceland from its early beginnings in the writings of Rev Björn Halldorssón in 1723, when sand storms buried the farms and house, to the creation of the Soil Conservation Service established in 1907 and what it the SCS has accomplished to the present both as an Icelandic institution and its role as a United Nations International School of Soil Conservation. Apparently, Halldorssón was the first to attempt to control the sand and stop the drifting. It is from these ealy efforts and others that eventually led to the creation of the Soil Conservation Service in 1907. This article stone-walls-for-conservation. is an example of how farmers struggled to save their farms (many could not) by controlling the drifting sand with series of stone walls.
hThere are many examples of some conservation by like-minded people in both the Iceland Forest Service and the Iceland Soil Conservation Service. The Forest Service in particular has it roots in organzed forestry by Danish Foresters dating back to 1899. Interestingly, the Iceland Forestry Association (a non-government institution) was founded by an Act of Parliament in 1930. While the Soil Conservation Service and the Forerst Service are, on paper, separate departments, it is not uncommon for these institutions to switch rolls and cooperate whenever convenient. The on-going expansion of Hekla Forest (Heklaskógar) is a good example. Likewise, members of local Iceland Forestry Association and Agricultural Associations may hold separate memberships; but they are often basically the same people, particularly the FARMER/FORESTERS among them that are involved in "Healing the Land" - for example Skjolskógur Vestfjorðum is an association of Forest Farmers in the West Fiords. And they are not just people we'd normally classify as "rural" peoples; because thousands (about 7,300 members) of citizens in the City of Reykjavik, Akureyri and just about every town and village in Iceland pitch in to Heal the land as it was and even better than it was in the age of settlement 1,000 years ago.
Since the 1970's in particular, the development of larger, and more efficient land reclamation equipment (including the use of the Douglas DC4 aircraft for aerial seeding) has accelerated the speed and revegetation on a large scale. Since the establishement of the Iceland Forest Service, their staff have undertaken the often strenuous business of seed collecting of tree species in far off lands that would be suitable for Iceland; which, coupled with tree breeding programs and accelerated production of containerized tree seedlings, speeds up reforestation and wood production. Many of my own photos of a journey around Iceland 1983 and in 2012 illustrates the conversion from a raw, devastated landscape into expansive, highly productive grasslands and beautiful forests. Below is a Soil Conservation Service's B&W photo dated 1944 compared to my photo taken about 2010, which abundantly illustrates the soil Conservation Service's ability to transform a volcanic desert into rich grassland on a huge scale.
Also at Gunnarsholt there's a 14-hectare experimental poplar plantation which was originally a joint Canadian-Icelandic study of energy fluxes and other biometeorological variants see The Alaska Poplar is a variety bred at the Iceland Forest Research at Mogilsá and propagated en-mass for the project. The experimental site was planted in 1990 by students from Akraness High School and was cooperative research project of the Soil Conservation Service, Agricultural Reseach Institute and the Iceland Forest Service and was initiated by Professor Harry Mccaughey of Queen's University, Sveinn Runolfsson of Iceland Soil Conservation, and the Iceland Agricultural Research Institute and is currently being managed by Professor Bjarni D. Sigursson of the Agricultural University of Iceland. So far it is the subject of over 40 scientific papers, 4 Ph. D dissertations and number Masters theses. This link firstname.lastname@example.org gives an overview of the Soil Conservation in Iceland
Iceland Soil Conservation Service website www.land.is