LINCOLN, Neb. – Nebraska’s Natural Resources Districts (NRDs) were represented by more than 55 directors and staff in Washington, D.C., March 20-22, 2023.
Nebraska’s NRDs advocate for strengthening tools to preserve and fund natural resources projects, which includes influencing policymakers from the ground up with a unified voice.
This grassroots advocacy culminates with a visit to Washington, D.C., allowing NRD staff and directors to engage with congressional leaders and hear from national partners on federal legislation and programs.
“The most effective lobbyists are the people who work and live among our natural resources,” said Dr. Orval Gigstad, Nebraska Association of Resources Districts president. “Going to D.C. is an opportunity to advocate for Nebraska by sharing our personal stories, and also hear federal perspectives on issues that could impact us locally.”
While on Capitol Hill, conference attendees spent a day meeting with Nebraska senators and congressmen and participated in a two-day session with federal agencies and conservation partners. NRDs help deliver several federal programs locally, and these partnerships equate into real dollars for Nebraska agriculture and communities. Some of the federal topics and speakers included:
- Farm Bill, Inflation Reduction Act, WaterSMART Initiative, Watershed Programs, and Climate Smart Ag with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).
- Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
- Water Resources Development Act with Senator Deb Fischer’s Legislative Staff.
- Partners for Fish & Wildlife Program with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
- Waters of the United States (WOTUS) with American Farm Bureau Federation and National Corn Growers Association.
Gigstad, who has served on the Nemaha NRD board since 1993, also serves as chairman of the National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD) Northern Plains Region on behalf of Nebraska’s NRDs.
NACD provides a unified, national voice for the more than 3,000 conservation districts across the U.S. including Nebraska’s 23 NRDs. NACD’s member-driven board of directors selects conservation policy priorities, which are used to develop and review environmental and natural resources legislation and to secure adequate federal funding for natural resources conservation programs.
On March 21, National Water Resources Association (NWRA) Executive Vice President and Nebraska-native Dale Nellor spoke to NRD attendees. His career in Washington, D.C. started with an internship in 2000 and 2001 sponsored by the Nebraska Association of Resources Districts. Nellor went on to work for Sen. Chuck Hagel and several agriculture organizations on Capitol Hill.
“Elected officials and government agencies get the greatest value from the relationships and conversations with constituents that can provide a real-time perspective on the challenges being faced at home,” said Nellor, whose father, Lloyd, served on the Lower Loup NRD board. “That value is what the NRDs bring each time they come to Washington and share their story.”
Back in Nebraska, advocacy efforts will continue by hosting elected officials in the Natural Resources Districts and engaging in public outreach.
“Locally, NRDs will continue to share our successes and concerns with our elected officials to ensure more informed decision making,” Gigstad said. “It is important that our members of Congress know what the needs of locally led conservation are so that NRDs can receive adequate support to continue protecting lives, property and the future.”
Established in 1972, Nebraska’s 23 NRDs are local government units involved in a variety of projects and programs to conserve and protect the state’s natural resources. Today, the unique system of locally controlled, tax-funded, watershed-based conservation is widely admired throughout the nation.
The Nebraska Association of Resources Districts (NARD), the trade association for Nebraska’s 23 Natural Resources Districts (NRD), works with individual districts to protect lives, property and the future of Nebraska’s natural resources. NRDs are unique to Nebraska, and act as local government entities with broad responsibilities to protect Nebraska’s natural resources. Major Nebraska river basins form the boundaries of the 23 NRDs, enabling districts to respond to local conservation and resource management needs. Learn more about Nebraska’s NRDs at www.nrdnet.org.
— Nebraska’s Natural Resources Districts