Saturday, July 27, 2013

Nebraska Natural Resource Districts

Natural Resource Districts have been operational in Nebraska since July 1, 1972. The 24 NRDs combined Soil Conservation Districts along with over 100 other special use Districts authorized by State law. After over 40 years of successful operation, an effort is being made to prepare an Oral History of their Development. I was in the  Washington Office of the USDA Soil Conservation Service (SCS) at the time the consolidation took place. The Agency  had enjoyed some 30 years of success by the application of Soil Conservation practices on private land through Soil Conservation Districts. The SCD's were authorized under State Law throughout the United States, adopted generally on a County wide basis and governed by a board of 5 locally elected supervisors under a State level Soil Conservation Commission. While the Agency took no official position on the Nebraska change, there were individuals in SCS that felt the Agency's success in the application of Conservation farming practices could be diminished by the consolidation into the larger multipurpose districts. The NRD boundaries are based principally on a watershed basis, have taxing authority, and their Board of Directors selected at general elections. While it was a controversial conversion, after 40 years NRD's are widely accepted and recognized as successful. Interestingly, only a few states have seriously considered the Nebraska "Model". But, Nebraska is also unique with our non-partisan, Unicameral Legislature. I enjoyed my interview by Jim Barr for the Oral History.

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