Annual Niobrara River Basin Meeting Showcases Local Conservation

Annual Niobrara River Basin Meeting Showcases Local Conservation


VALENTINE, Nebraska – The Middle Niobrara Natural Resources Districts (NRD) welcomed 40 attendees from around the Midwest to learn more about the Niobrara River Basin during the ninth annual Niobrara Basin meeting July 20-22.

“The annual meeting allows us to engage in legislative, budgetary, conservation, technology and partnership opportunities all while enjoying the beautiful natural resources of the Niobrara River,” said Mike Murphy, Middle Niobrara NRD general manager.

The meeting kicked off with a six-hour tour down the Scenic Niobrara River allowing for social-distanced networking. Attendees included representatives from engineering and technology companies, other NRDs, and government partners like the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources, the Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy and the Nebraska Forest Service.

Despite being Nebraska’s smallest land-valuation Natural Resources District, the Middle Niobrara NRD continues to add staff and tackle large-scale conservation projects by securing grant funding.

Recently, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) announced funding approval for Middle Niobrara NRD to complete a Watershed and Flood Prevention Operations (WFPO) plan(s) for watersheds in Cherry County. This funding will cover the cost of completing the two-year planning phase for each watershed. The Cherry County watersheds will cover nearly 570,000 acres.

The staff is working to transform their new office, which sits on 8 acres of land along Highway 20, into the Sandhills Interactive Natural Resources Education Complex (SINREC) with a grant from the Nebraska Environmental Trust. The project includes a 120-foot center pivot to provide statewide irrigation and chemigation training.

A National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD) technical assistance grant allowed the MNNRD to hire a watershed coordinator to help improve erosion and water quality issues in the Long Pine Creek Watershed (LPCW). The LPCW encompasses 332,000 acres, many of which are designated for agriculture. An additional NACD grant secured funds for a staff engineer to further increase technical assistance capacity.

“We want to do boots-on-the-ground conservation and work directly with producers to protect our resources,” Murphy said. “Having the right people to interact and promote conservation with the landowners is truly what’s needed.”