The year 2012 marked 40 years of protecting lives, property and future of natural resources for Nebraska's 23 Natural Resources Districts (NRDs). Throughout 2012, the NRDs celebrated the success of projects and programs that help protect Nebraska's natural resources. Natural Resources Districts are unique to Nebraska because they are governed by locally elected boards and Nebraska is the only state in the union to have this system. A handful of board members, managers and staff have been a part of the NRD system since the NRD was created back in 1972.
Senator Maurice Kremer introduced and the Nebraska Legislature enacted Legislative Bill (LB) 1357 in 1969 to combine Nebraska's 154 special purpose entities into 24 Natural Resources Districts by July, 1972.
The original 24 NRDs' boundaries are organized based on Nebraska's major river basins which allows for better management practices to be applied to similar topography. In 1989, the Middle Missouri NRD and the Papio NRD were merged into one, becoming the Papio- Missouri NRD which resulted in the current 23-NRD system.
Natural Resources Districts were created to solve flood control, soil erosion, irrigation run-off, and groundwater quantity and quality issues. Nebraska's NRDs are involved in a wide variety of projects and programs to conserve and protect the state's natural resources. NRDs are charged under state law with 12 areas of responsibility including flood control, soil erosion, groundwater management and many others.
For more information on how the NRDs were created from the people who worked years in creating them, go to the Natural Resources Districts (NRD) Oral History Project. The Natural Resources Districts (NRD) Oral History Project is a collaboration between the Daugherty Water for Food Institute, the Nebraska Association of Natural Resources Districts, the Nebraska State Historical Society and several dedicated former and current stewards of Nebraska’s Natural Resources. Since its inception in April 2013, the project has recorded and transcribed over eighty 45-minute oral histories spanning former and current staff and leadership of all 23 NRDs and key individuals that helped ensure their formation.
NRDs are local government entities with broad responsibilities to protect our natural resources. Major Nebraska river basins form the boundaries, enabling districts to respond best to local needs. Elected boards of directors govern districts. Much of the funding comes from local property taxes. In many cases, your local natural resources district typically uses 1 to 2 percent of all property taxes collected in the county.
Challenges & Solutions
NRDs help Nebraskans respond to natural resource challenges with local control and local solutions. Often, they build partnerships with other agencies and organizations, including the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Nebraska Natural Resources Commission, Nebraska Department of Natural Resources and other state and federal agencies, municipalities, counties and private organizations.
Leaving a Legacy of Conservation
Many NRD projects produce long lasting results: dams, terraces, drainage ditches, windbreaks, reservoirs and recreational trails. NRDs are unique to Nebraska, a state which has a long history of political innovation including the nonpartisan, single-house legislative and total public power. In the past 40 years, NRDs have experienced tremendous growth in the responsibilities given to them by state statute, especially in protecting ground water. With information, education and outreach efforts, NRDs also touch Nebraska's future generations, the young people who will watch over the state's resources in the 21st Century.