Hundreds Attend the Natural Resources Districts’ 2015 Annual Conference for Latest Findings, Information, and Awards

(Kearney, NE) – The Nebraska Association of Resources Districts (NARD) Annual Conference was held at the Younes Conference Center in Kearney, September 28th – 29th and focused on protecting the future of Nebraska’s natural resources.  This year nearly 400 Natural Resources Districts (NRD) managers, staff, board members, conservation partners and guests received new information on many timely natural resources and agriculture subjects.

“I’m impressed with the amount of new information this year,” said Terry Martin, President of the Nebraska Association of Resources Districts.  “The Annual Conference really expanded its list of topics and helped demonstrate just how far Nebraska has come in the never-ending fight to conserve our natural resources.”

Participants had a variety of educational break-out sessions to choose from.  Sessions targeted a issues including a recap on a major Niobrara River Agreement made between the NRDs, Nebraska Game and Parks Commission and NPPD. This agreement will help the NRDs protect the Niobrara River for decades to come. An information session was also held on the Republican River Basin, and a session on major flooding events this year in southeast Nebraska and how the NRDs’ levees and dams functioned like they are supposed to. Other events included recognition of Hall of Fame inductees, conservation award winners and Master Conservationist’s awards.

The NARD Foundation which provides financial assistance to youth programs in natural resources and agriculture, raised more than $26,000 this year! These funds will assist in supporting more than 10 different educational programs in Nebraska to encourage kids to consider a career in natural resources.

During the Awards Banquet four individuals were inducted into the Natural Resources Hall of Fame. They include Jim and Mary Ann Wortmann, former Board members of Lewis and Clark NRD, John Turnbull, General Manager of the Upper Big Blue NRD and Jim Cook, an attorney who assisted many NRDs when they were just getting started.

“The inductees of the Natural Resources Districts Hall of Fame are people who’ve dedicated their lives to natural resources conservation and helped shape history,” said Martin.

Hall of Fame award winner categories include: Natural Resources District Board Member, Natural Resources District Employee and NRD Supporter which includes individuals outside the NRD system.

·         Jim and Mary Ann Wortmann were inducted as Natural Resources District Board Members. Jim served on the NRD board for 28 years, from 1974 to 2002, and was chairman for many of those years. He also served as NARD delegate for 24 years, representing the Lewis & Clark NRD until 2002. After Jim retired, Mary Ann was elected to replace Jim on the NRD board and served in that position for 12 years, from 2002 to 2014.  She also took over responsibilities as NARD delegate for those years and was chosen as the first female president of the Nebraska Association of Resources Districts, serving two terms in that capacity.

·         John Turnbull was inducted as Natural Resources District Employee. John was General Manager of the Tri-Basin NRD in 1975. In 1978, he became the General Manager at the Upper Big Blue NRD and is currently in his 40th year of service at Nebraska’s NRDs. Through implementation of groundwater rules and regulations to manage the resources, the Upper Big Blue NRD in York is proud to report there has been little change in the groundwater levels even after the growth of an additional 800,000 irrigated acres during John’s successful tenure.

·         Jim Cook was inducted as Natural Resources District Supporter. Jim was a key attorney at the Nebraska Natural Resources Commission from 1970 – 2000, involved with helping to establish the Natural Resources Districts’ system across Nebraska in 1972. As NRDs grew and programs such as the Groundwater Act, Chemigation Act, and Erosion and Sediment Control Act came along, Jim would develop templates that NRDs could use and he would review rules and regulations. His assistance saved NRDs thousands of dollars in legal assistance over the years.

Nebraska Association of Resources Districts award winners include:

·         Director of the Year – Bill Vasey from Cozad, NE; nominated by Central Platte NRD

·         Educator of the Year – Mike Kozeal, Sargent Public Schools, Sargent, NE; nominated by Lower Loup NRD

·         Outstanding Grassland Award – Doug and Theresa Keller from Kimball, NE; nominated by South Platte NRD

·         Outstanding Tree Planter – Steve Schumacher from Dalton, NE; nominated by South Platte NRD

·         Outstanding Community Conservation – Big Indian Archers from Beatrice, NE; nominated by Lower Big Blue NRD

Omaha World-Herald and IANR Master Conservationist Award Winners include:

·         Agriculture – Kermit, Janice, Alan and Cloid Smith from Eustis, NE.

·         Community Winner – City of Omaha Stormwater Team, Omaha, NE.