Nebraska’s Natural Resources Districts (NRDs) collectively signed a Memorandum of Agreement with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Jan. 28. This agreement is a renewal of a long-standing commitment between the NRDs and NRCS that reaches back to the Dust Bowl days.
“For more than 80 years Nebraska’s NRDs and the NRCS have been working side-by-side to provide natural resource management assistance to Nebraskans,” said David Eigenberg, Upper Big Blue NRD general manager. “We are committed to continuing our conservation efforts with NRCS to protect lives, property and the future.”
In 1935 President Roosevelt signed the Soil Conservation Act. The law was designed, “To provide for the protection of land resources against soil erosion, and for other purposes.”
A driving force behind the creation of the Soil Conservation Act was the severe drought that was occurring in the Great Plains. Beginning in 1932, persistent drought conditions caused widespread crop failures leaving soil exposed and vulnerable to wind. This period was prone to dust storms that would block out the sun.
The Soil Conservation Act formed the Soil Conservation Service, which today is called the Natural Resources Conservation Service. It didn’t take long for the newly-formed Soil Conservation Service to learn that they needed ways to extend conservation assistance to more farmers. There needed to be a locally-led approach, and the idea for the conservation district was born.
In 1937 the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) drafted the Standard State Soil Conservation Districts Law, which President Roosevelt sent to the governors of all states. This law created Soil and Water Conservation Districts.
In 1938 the Papio Soil Conservation District became the first conservation district in Nebraska. By 1972 the Nebraska Unicameral created the NRD system, which combined the responsibilities of the 154 special-use districts into a modern network of 23 Natural Resources Districts established along river basins.
The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service has 77 county offices in Nebraska divided into management areas that mimic NRD boundaries. This allows the NRD and NRCS staff to work together on the same, locally-identified natural resource concerns. Today, Nebraska’s unique NRD system of locally-controlled, tax-funded, watershed-based conservation is widely admired throughout the nation.
“The signing of this agreement is a symbol of our commitment to continue the legacy of our conservation partnership established more than 80 years ago,” said NRCS State Conservationist Craig Derickson. “It was true back in the Dust Bowl that the issues facing agriculture couldn’t be solved alone. That’s still true today. By working together, we are able to accomplish more for farmers and ranchers in Nebraska.”
“Through partnerships like this, we help Nebraska farmers and ranchers remain productive and profitable while ensuring our natural resources are protected for generations,” said Annette Sudbeck, Lewis & Clark NRD general manager.
Each of the 23 NRDs will sign an agreement with NRCS, which reinforces the partnership between the agencies and will be in effect until mutually modified or terminated.