Nebraska's natural resources districts were created in 1972 to protect the state's natural resources. They use a variety of projects, programs and partnerships to do so, says Dean Edson, executive director the Nebraska Association of Resources Districts.
The programs and projects include flood control and watershed structures, cost-sharing funding for a myriad of soil and water practices, tree planting, plus water quality and water quantity management.
The primary responsibility of NRDs is carrying out the Groundwater Management and Protection Act. In other words, the primary mission of NRDs, with some exceptions, is to management use of groundwater.
Major Nebraska river basins form the boundaries of the 23 NRDs, enabling the districts to respond best to local conservation and resource management tools.
Districts are led by locally elected board members and have taxing authority to fund their programs, although state and federal funds are sometimes used in these projects.
Partners have become strong supporters of natural resource management, according to Edson. The districts work with the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality, the Nebraska Natural Resources Commission and the Natural Resources Commission. They also work with citizen and environmental groups and landowners.
"The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service is proud to call itself a partner of the NRDs in Nebraska," says Craig Derickson, NRCS state conservationist. "Our legacy of working with local conservation districts dates back to the days of the Dust Bowl when conservation started getting national recognition. Natural resource conservation at the NRD level now involves policy making and governance of issues that far exceed the scope of typical soil and water conservation, especially in issues such as groundwater management."
Derickson says that the districts also have been a key partner to NRCS by serving as the local sponsor of watershed projects NRCS develop across Nebraska.