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NRD Hall of Fame inductees announced at HHD

Three people who are known for their conservation work will be honored.

September 15, 2022

4 Min Read
Sunset and farmland
CARE FOR THE LAND: Three people were named as 2022 inductees into the Nebraska Natural Resources District Hall of Fame because of their life’s work in conservation. Curt Arens

Three more conservation heroes are joining those who have gone before them on the honor roll that is the Nebraska NRD Hall of Fame.

During Husker Harvest Days on Sept. 14 on the Nebraska Farmer Hospitality Tent stage, Nebraska’s Natural Resources Districts recognized three people who will be inducted into the NRD Hall of Fame later this month.

“Nebraska’s Natural Resources Districts’ projects involve many dedicated individuals working to make the good life great,” said Orval Gigstad, president of the Nebraska Association of Resources Districts (NARD). “We’re proud to recognize these outstanding individuals for the significant improvements they’ve made to our natural resources, and the NRD Hall of Fame is one small way to thank them.”

Annual event

Annually, Nebraska’s NRDs nominate and vote for people who have made significant contributions to improving the state’s natural resources. Hall of Fame categories include an NRD director, NRD employee and NRD supporter.

The NRD supporter includes an individual outside the NRD system who has shown tremendous care and leadership in Nebraska’s ongoing conservation efforts.

2022 NRD Hall of Fame inductees include:

NRD director. Jim Bendfeldt, Kearney, Neb.

NRD employee. Marlin Petermann (posthumously), Omaha, Neb.

NRD supporter. Susan Olafsen-Lackey, Winside, Neb.

Jim Bendfeldt – NRD director

During his 17 years and counting on the Central Platte NRD board, Bendfeldt has had a significant impact by bringing awareness of district problems, along with viable solutions.

In 2007, Bendfeldt initiated the idea to implement the first water bank in Nebraska and donated 2.4 acre-feet to start the first transaction. This idea and the Central Platte NRD’s foresight were the catalyst for the transfer program, and the first irrigation certification website in the state.

Bendfeldt was one of the first in Kearney, Neb., to successfully implement conservation practices, providing reductions in soil moisture loss, fuel needs, soil erosion and irrigation scheduling. Now that Bendfeldt has retired, his son Shane continues the practice by trying new technologies and practices and providing land for Nebraska Extension trials.

Bendfeldt credits his leadership to involvement on more than a dozen boards and committees, and encourages new candidates to run for election to achieve a more diverse board of directors. In addition to NRD meetings, Bendfeldt attends meetings of other community boards to ensure his role as a director is thorough.

“It’s important to learn from other community board members,” he says. “It gives you a mindset to be considerate of what other people think.”

Marlin Petermann – NRD employee (posthumously)

Before his death in December 2021, Petermann worked for the Papio-Missouri River NRD for 47 years, the majority as assistant general manager. He was passionate about his job, and his degrees in civil and agricultural engineering enabled him to combine his love of problem-solving with nature.

He had an important job that directly affected communities, especially public safety. He was an institution in Nebraska’s flood mitigation efforts. For decades, he worked tirelessly with local, county, state and federal governments and created countless public-private partnerships that not only made communities safer, but also enhanced quality of life.

“It’s impossible to put into words the legacy that Marlin’s nearly 48 years of leadership, dedication and service leave to the Papio NRD and beyond,” said John Winkler, Papio-Missouri River NRD general manager. “His footprint on the district is deep, wide and timeless.”

Susan Olafsen-Lackey – NRD supporter

Olafsen-Lackey is a research hydrologist with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Conservation and Survey Division. She began her career with CSD in 1991 and has used her knowledge and experience to help Nebraska communities and agencies protect and manage water resources.

“Sue is always willing to share her knowledge with those interested in learning about our precious groundwater resources,” said Mike Murphy, Middle Niobrara NRD general manager. “She is the hardest-working person, dedicating her time, knowledge and expertise.”

Olafsen-Lackey holds a Nebraska professional geologist license and a water well and pump installers contractor’s license. Her main research emphasis is the groundwater flow system in northeast and north-central Nebraska, including determining subsurface geology, as well as collecting and analyzing water level and water chemistry data. She has logged more than 78,000 feet of test holes for northeast Nebraska, and is highly regarded by CSD and her colleagues.

“Sue’s very hard work and constant dedication exemplifies the tradition of cooperation between the Conservation and Survey Division and Nebraska’s NRDs,” CSD Nebraska state geologist Matt Joeckel said. “We are very proud of Sue, and our respect for her is universal.”

Olafsen-Lackey serves on many water-related boards and committees and has authored or co-authored numerous publications, maps and presentations. Her CSD service area encompasses part or all of seven NRDs.

Hall of Fame inductees will be recognized Sept. 26 at the NRD annual conference dinner banquet in Kearney.

Grimes is the public relations director for NARD.

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