After four decades of service, Irwin retires from UNWNRD Board

Long time Upper Niobrara White Natural Resources District (UNWNRD) board member, Jim Irwin, announced his retirement from the NRD Board of Directors at the September 2013 Board Meeting. Jim represented the Southeastern Box Butte and Southern Sheridan County area of the NRD for 41 years. The UNWNRD Board and staff will greatly miss his presence and leadership, as he was an extremely dedicated and active Director.

During the 1960s, Jim was instrumental in the formation of the Box Butte County Irrigation Association which coordinated efforts to examine the ground water supply. The Association funded and installed two of the first dedicated monitoring wells in the county. When LB 1357 passed in 1969 to create Natural Resources Districts (NRDs), Jim witnessed the reconfiguration of 154 special-purpose agencies into what would be 23 NRDs. Jim’s involvement in the Association provided constituents a well-informed voice and experienced representation on the area’s water resources. As a result, Jim was appointed to a position on the first Board of Directors for the UNWNRD.

Since 1972, Jim has served as Chairman of the UNWNRD Board three times, mostly recently in 2010. His involvement has included the operations, personnel and policy, budget, land and weed and information/education subcommittees while consistently being on the water subcommittee. Because of his farming background and early involvement in researching the area’s water resources, Jim understands the nature of irrigation, water policy and water ownership in Nebraska. Irwin’s constituents have re-elected him 10 times because of this experience and insight. Through four decades of legislative change, Jim has seen local producers evolve in decision making processes and management strategies. The various droughts spanning the last three decades have required irrigators to reconsider the notion of an infinite water supply. While serving on the NRD Board of Directors, Jim has not been hesitant to vote in favor of unpopular policy if it was in the best interest of his constituents. As the Upper Niobrara White NRD carefully considered a well moratorium and ground water allocations on irrigated acres, he understood the need for action.

In 2010, Irwin was chosen as the recipient of the statewide Director of the Year award from the Nebraska Association of Natural Resources Districts (NARD). When reflecting on his service recently, Jim said he very much appreciates “working with the Board and NRD staff and highly values the many friendships formed over the years.” Jim’s devotion to natural resources is evident in the extraordinary time commitment he has given to the NRD Board, and in the manner in which he continues stewardship on the Irwin farm with Jacci, his wife and partner of 57 years.

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