The Middle Niobrara Natural Resource District (MNNRD) is one of 23 Natural Resource Districts in Nebraska committed to ensuring the quality of all of the natural resources Nebraska has to offer. Water quantity and quality, flood control, grassland and soil health, education, and trees/shrubs for windbreaks are the most important. The current method of training for anyone associated with any sort of water management or water quality control is six hours of classroom learning and PowerPoint presentations. The exam for the Natural Resource Ground Water Tech license averages around a 38% pass rate. The need for hands on resource management training and education facilities is important to ensure sustainable amounts of quality water to our entire state into the future. Lindsay is willing to donate a 121’ fully operational center pivot irrigation system to help meet this need. With a full three acres available for use at the MNNRD property, there is an opportunity for a hands on interactive educational training center to meet needs from across the state. The sky will be the limit on how many people can be educated and trained in doing the most good for Nebraska’s natural resources.
The Sandhills Interactive Natural Resources Education Complex (SINREC) has a number of main objectives between the indoor and outdoor components of this facility. The first objective is to have the opportunity to educate and train the Nebraskans that deal with wells, irrigation, and any sort of water management on a daily basis. Between farmers and ranchers, NRD/NDEQ/NRCS/HHS employees, well drillers, members of the irrigation industry, and city municipality employees the educational need becomes very apparent. Having an on-site fully operational center pivot irrigation system and well, monitoring well(s) with data loggers, multiple demonstrative flow meters, new technology included on the control panels, and a full chemigation system will allow the SINREC to simulate and prepare individuals for issues they might run across at any one of the nearly 100,000 registered irrigation wells in the state of Nebraska. Everything located under and around the pivot will be used to achieve the next objective, the show and tell of different best management practices (BMP’s) and forestry management activities utilized across the state. Benefits of cover crops and native grasses, soil moisture equipment and weather stations, tree belts for wind protection, and composting/woody biomass usage for soil health improvement research, is just the start. An outdoor walking trail of native tree species will provide specific identification and will positively endorse the conservation tree program provided by the NRD’s. Included in this center is going to be an indoor classroom environment that will supplement the outdoor classroom, as well as an educational opportunity in and of itself. Interpretive signs and wall murals, posters and interactive electronics, smart TV’s and computers including projectors are going to allow the presentation of a wide variety of trainings and educational topics. This indoor classroom will be a place for local high schools, youth groups, landowners, UNL Extension or anyone else to use to educate and train individuals on what is going on in natural resources across this watershed and across the state. The ability to have a classroom setting, to accompany the hands-on experience, is only going to expand the spectrum and quality of education opportunities provided.
This project will be a first of its kind, something that is truly innovative to the state of Nebraska. All the while being in a place that is more readily available to the northwestern portion of state, in a town that has the capacity for the attendees. This center will provide more value, than just watching PowerPoints, to the substantial yearly financial investment made to send employees to trainings. The indoor classroom and outdoor spaces will highlight the ability to utilize the three different learning styles, auditory, kinesthetic, and visual to best accommodate all individuals. While this project will require weekly and monthly maintenance, it will allow for the continuous improvement to the site and its features. A progressive mindset, along with strong relationships with businesses and agencies, will keep the SINREC up to date with the latest technologies and ideas to showcase to all visitors. Commitment towards the continuous improvement of the learning environment and educational curriculum will also be at the forefront of the SINREC. Making it competitive in providing the highest quality and most complete training for anyone who attends. This center is something that will bring benefits today and into the future, keeping everyone up to speed on current issues and technology.
The completion of SINREC is still on-going.