The formation of a broader natural resources unit has been discussed periodically by numerous committees, subcommittees, external review teams, and task forces, beginning in 1965. Indeed, many of the units merged to form the School of Natural Resources were included in a subcommittee report to the Board of Regents in 1980. Their recommendations included,
“Study the feasibility and advisability of establishing a School of Natural Resources within the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources to include: Conservation and Survey, Meteorology and Climatology, Forestry, Fisheries and Wildlife, Arboretum, Range Management, Hydrology, Environmental Programs, and possibly the Geology Department from the College of Arts and Sciences.”
After decades of discussion, debate, and recommendations, the School of Natural Resources Sciences (SNRS) was formed in 1997 by consolidation of the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Wildlife, the Department of Agricultural Meteorology, a portion of the Conservation and Survey Division (including the Center for Advanced Land Management Information Technologies, or CALMIT), the UNL Water Center, and faculty from several other academic units, including the Department of Agronomy and Horticulture, the Department of Geosciences, and the School of Biological Sciences. The Nebraska Forest Service and the Nebraska Statewide Arboretum were identified as close affiliates of the new School. Thus, SNRS was formed by the merger of two long-standing units and faculty from several others, yet it did not include all of the units envisioned by the subcommittee report to the Regents in 1980 or by the SNRS Implementation Committee in 1996 (which essentially echoed the 1980 report).
SNRS represented a new model for academic units at UNL, because it was the first unit to be part of both the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS, located on City Campus) and the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, which is part of the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources (IANR, located on East Campus). Thus, the Director of SNRS reported to four deans in two colleges, one in CAS and three in IANR (i.e. teaching, research and extension). In addition, SNRS was comprised of many faculty with joint appointments in SNRS and other academic units, as well as a large number of affiliated faculty with adjunct or courtesy appointments. A major goal of the School was to enhance the professional expertise of the faculty by facilitating programmatic interactions needed to address priority needs. In addition, SNRS was designed to foster partnerships and linkages with state and federal agencies. The broad vision of SNRS when it was formed was:
“The School will be a nationally prominent leader in academic, research, scholarly service and outreach programs in natural resource and environmental sciences. The School will have strong scientific programs to provide understanding of complex relationships and interactions within and among natural and managed ecosystems, will provide leadership in developing outstanding academic programs in natural resources and environmental sciences, and will develop integrated strategies to affect the social and economic processes. Thus, the School will serve the academic and scientific community, government agencies, resource managers, landowners, and the general public with timely and relevant information on the use and conservation of renewable and nonrenewable natural resources and on resource management opportunities and environmental challenges, particularly those in the Great Plains. Collaboration within and among disciplines will characterize the School’s programs.”
Since its inception in August 1997, the School underwent numerous important changes, including several changes in leadership, the Natural Resources Business Center [which provided business and administrative support to SNRS (and now SNR) and its affiliates] was centralized in a new location along with SNRS administrative offices, and the Water Center was transferred back out of the School in 2001.
The former head of the Department of Agricultural Meteorology, Dr. Blaine Blad, chaired the SNRS Implementation Committee and was the first Director of SNRS. The directorship was originally established for two years, but was extended to nearly three, including a national search for a new director. Dr. Ted Elliott, an ecosystem scientist, became Director in June 2000 and served until December 2001 when he went on medical leave. Ted passed away in June 2002 after battling cancer for over a year. Following an internal search, Dr. Kyle Hoagland became Acting and then Interim Director, from December 2001 to August 1, 2003.
The School of Natural Resources (SNR) was established on July 1, 2003 by the consolidation of the School of Natural Resource Sciences, the Conservation and Survey Division, and the Water Center. Programmatic opportunities and enhanced service to clientele groups were key elements in the decision to create a new unit. This merger was intended to leverage a history of collaboration at a time when administrative efficiencies and limited funding issues were critical, as they remain today. Integrating CSD with SNRS and the Water Center was a logical extension of a high level of formal and informal integration already in place through SNRS and fulfills most of the recommendation made in 1980. Following an internal search, Dr. Mark Kuzila, formerly Director of the Conservation and Survey Division, became Director of SNR on August 1, 2003 for a minimum of a three-year period. The faculty in SNR expressed their desire to IANR administration of having the option to conduct another national search for a new director, beginning in early 2005.