Water conservation

NRD reflects on 50 years | Farm and ranch







In 1969, the 80th unicameral created the Natural Resource Districts with the passage of Bill 1357. Left to right: Chester Ellis, president of the Nebraska Soil and Water Conservation Districts Association; Senator Maurice Kremer, Chairman of the Agriculture and Recreation Committee of the Nebraska Legislature; Governor Norbert Tiemann; Warren Patefield, past president of the Nebraska Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts; Milton Fricke, director of the National Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts; and Warren Fairchild, executive secretary of the Nebraska Soil and Water Conservation Commission.


Courtesy photo


NORTH PLATTE – Throughout 2022, Nebraska’s Natural Resource Districts (NRDs) will celebrate 50 years of protecting lives, property and the future. Over the next 12 months, the NRDs will commemorate breakthroughs and achievements in conservation.

“Over the past 50 years, NRDs have adapted while dealing with changes in technology, funding, legislation, agencies and society,” said Jim Eschliman, president of the Association of Districts of Nebraska Resources. “The locally led Nebraska conservation model is a successful legacy because of our ability to adapt to the local needs of our communities. “

After the devastation of the Dust Bowl, specialist districts were developed to address local soil and water issues. But the puzzle of overlapping authorities and responsibilities has created confusion at best.

In 1969, Senator Maurice Kremer introduced Bill 1357 to consolidate Nebraska’s 154 special purpose entities into 24 natural resource districts by July 1972. In 1989, the Middle Missouri Tributaries NRD and the Papio NRD had merged to become the Papio-Missouri River NRD, which gave the 23 natural resource districts.

Today, Nebraska’s unique system of locally controlled, watershed-based conservation is widely admired across the country. In recent years, at least 11 states ranging from Washington to Arkansas and Illinois to California have requested a similar system for natural resource management. Despite being the nation’s No.1 irrigated state, groundwater levels statewide in Nebraska have been maintained at levels less than a foot below pre- development. irrigation in the 1950s. In many areas, groundwater levels are higher.