Gov. Ricketts Proclaims July 11-15 as NRD Week

With the stroke of his pen, Gov. Pete Ricketts proclaims July 11-15, 2022, as “NRD Week” in celebration of 50 years of Nebraska’s Natural Resources Districts.

“We are proud to celebrate five decades of protecting, conserving and improving Nebraska’s nature resources,” said Dr. Orval Gigstad, president of the Nebraska Association of Resources Districts. “NRD directors and staff know the work we do today – planting trees, water management, soil health – will directly impact our future.”

After the devastation of the Dust Bowl, special purpose districts were developed to solve local soil and water-related problems. But the puzzle of overlapping authorities and responsibilities provided confusion. In 1969, Sen. Maurice Kremer introduced LB1357 to combine Nebraska’s 154 special purpose entities into Natural Resources Districts. The Unicameral approved the measure and NRDs began operation in July 1972. Today, Nebraska’s unique system of locally controlled, watershed-based conservation is widely admired throughout the U.S. and beyond.

NRDs deliver state and federal programs including many projects with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy (NDEE), Nebraska Department of Natural Resources (NeDNR) and the University of Nebraska. These partnerships equate into real dollars for Nebraska agriculture and communities. “Nebraska policymakers had incredible foresight when creating the NRDs, realizing that our strength lies in collaboration with partners to champion conservation,” Dr. Gigstad said. “Our partnerships with local, state, and federal agencies have helped deliver conservation to millions of acres while reducing soil loss and improving water quality and quantity.”

By law, Natural Resources Districts share 12 main responsibilities. The most recognizable NRD responsibilities include groundwater management, flood protection, and the popular conservation tree program.

Groundwater Management

Nebraska’s Natural Resources Districts are responsible for protecting one of our most precious resources – groundwater. This mean ensuring there is enough for all users and protecting it from pollution.

As the No. 1 irrigated state in the nation, managing Nebraska’s water to ensure there is enough for domestic, industrial, and agricultural purposes is essential. NRDs work with irrigators, establish groundwater recharge projects, and implement water-wise programs. This is especially important during times of drought. The Lower Loup NRD’s Columbus Area Recharge Project is a prime example of how the agency uses science, and partnerships, in its problem solving and decision-making processes. Partnering with the City of Columbus, Platte County, Archers Daniels Midland, and the Christopher’s Cove Homeowners Association, the Lower Loup NRD plans on flipping the switch on the new recharge project in 2022. The innovative project will restore groundwater levels to an area of Columbus impacted when a flood control project routed flows around the community. Residents, industry, and agricultural producers were impacted. This science-based project will alleviate the situation without increased regulation.

NRDs have been developing groundwater quality plans since the 1980s, which are an essential part of protecting Nebraska’s water. Addressing groundwater quality issues requires regular data collection and recognizing and planning for changing conditions. Regulatory and taxing authorities allow NRDs to develop locally based incentive and educational programming and to enforce regulations when needed to protect Nebraska’s groundwater today and into the future.

Flood Protection

NRDs across the state employ a watershed protection approach. Utilizing floodplain management measures, NRDs design and build dams, levees, dikes, drainage ditches and other structures to keep flood waters from taking lives or damaging crops, buildings, and roads.

Flood control projects are developed for multiple purposes and often provide the additional benefit of recreation including boating, fishing, camping, wildlife viewing and pedestrian trails. The Lower Loup NRD owns and manages Davis Creek Recreation Area south of North Loup, Pibel Lake Recreation Area in southern Wheeler County near Bartlett, and the Lower Loup NRD Arboretum in Ord.

Conservation Tree Program

This spring, the NRD Conservation Tree Program planted its 100 millionth tree – that’s approximately 50 trees for each Nebraskan. Annually, the NRD Conservation Tree Program provides hundreds of thousands of low-cost, bulk trees and shrubs for windbreaks, erosion control, wildlife habitat and other conservation purposes. Districts collect orders for trees between November and March, then trees are distributed in April for spring planting.

Natural Resources Districts’ staff and directors will plant the ceremonial 100 millionth tree on the Nebraska Capitol grounds in a public ceremony this fall. Since its founding in 1972, the Lower Loup NRD, which is headquartered in Ord, has planted more than 12 million trees within the District. Dr. Gigstad noted that Nebraska’s NRDs will continue to adapt to meet future conservation needs.

“Protecting our precious resources like soil and water is something we can all agree on,” he said. “NRDs are uniquely positioned to help manage our natural resources to protect lives, property and the future of Nebraska’s communities.”

Follow the Lower Loup NRD’s Facebook page,, for information of the agency’s 50th anniversary open house later this year.


The Nebraska Association of Resources Districts (NARD) Executive Committee make NRD Week (July 11-15, 2022) official with a proclamation from Gov. Pete Ricketts. From left, NARD Past President Jim Eschliman (Lower Loup NRD), NARD Executive Director Dean Edson, NARD President Dr. Orval Gigstad (Nemaha NRD), NARD Secretary/Treasurer Joel Hansen (Lower Elkhorn NRD), and NARD Vice President Martin Graff (Middle Niobrara NRD).