Lincoln Journal Star. June 20, 2021.

Editorial: Biden’s ’30x30 plan’ is no land grab, would be good for Nebraska

Gov. Pete Ricketts has taken his show on the road in recent weeks, visiting all corners of the state with town halls explicitly opposing President Joe Biden’s suggestion to protect 30% of U.S. water and land.

“This fight is now in our own backyard,” Ricketts recently told a crowd in Clay Center. “We are on the front lines. We are in the trenches.”

For what battle has Nebraska become ground zero? The idea of taking care of natural resources is a positive one that should transcend artificial political boundaries.

Biden’s proposal – which Ricketts is correct will certainly require more flesh on its rather thin skeleton – isn’t about violating private property rights. It’s a call back to the days of a more cooperative America, one where people of all ideologies worked toward the common good.

In this case, it’s aiming to combat climate change to create a brighter future.

The president’s pitch is an entirely voluntary plan – one that builds upon the legacy of conservation efforts already employed by Nebraska farmers and landowners without seizing an inch of private property – that seeks to achieve a worthwhile goal despite being obscured by misinformation.

Just starting the conversation, as a federal report last month said the president is trying to do, is a far cry from the top-down, one-size-fits-all governing we’d criticize in this space. Plus, that would require the overreach against which Ricketts is crusading against in the first place.

More than a quarter of Nebraska counties’ boards of commissioners have passed resolutions condemning the president’s proposal. Life runs smoothly there without federal government intrusion, many residents of those areas would say, so there’s no need for this effort.

However, the common argument that farmers and ranchers are the primary stewards of their lands provides the very reason this idea should be embraced by Nebraskans.

Regenerative agriculture and protection of our precious natural resources aren’t political landmines; they’re ways to ensure the natural bounties of the Good Life will continue to be good long into the future.

If anything else, perhaps more water should be protected than just the 30% Biden has suggested.

Crippling droughts along the Pacific Coast and Rocky Mountains underscore the need to preserve and maintain access to water for drinking and irrigated agriculture when conditions deplete reserves. Whipsawed between floods and droughts the last decade and situated next to an ever-thirstier Colorado, Nebraskans know all too well the value – and vindictiveness – of our most vital natural resource.

The mere specter of the federal government isn’t always bad. Despite the abysmal perception most Nebraskans – and Americans – often have of our nation’s capital, good ideas can emanate from Washington.

Protecting Nebraska’s land and water through purely voluntary means is a noble goal, not federal government overreach – and we hope Nebraskans, subjected to the most militant rhetoric against 30-by-30, can see the difference.


Omaha World-Herald. June 20, 2021.

Editorial: We are one Nebraska; let’s strive to respect both urban and rural needs

Nebraska has an abiding obligation to make sure its state government respects rural interests as well as urban ones. It’s a key challenge that’s risen to the forefront of late because redistricting this fall is certain to move one — and perhaps two — seats in the State Legislature from the west to the east.

Fundamental population trends dictate such change. Districts must be of roughly equal size (about 37,000 residents per district under current rules), and growth in the Omaha/Sarpy/Lincoln areas has been significant, in contrast to declines in much of western Nebraska. Redistricting from a decade ago provides an illustration: Sarpy — Nebraska’s fastest-growing county — gained an additional state legislative seat, District 49, which was moved from the Panhandle.

That said, rural residents are justified to call on Nebraska state government to understand their needs and give them proper weight. We are one state, and our residents and leaders must strive to understand Nebraska’s diverse range of interests and reach sensible accommodations. Our state government must be neither strictly urban-focused nor narrowly rural-oriented. Nebraska needs sensible balance.

This is a longstanding theme for our newspaper. We underlined this message a decade ago after lawmakers completed the state’s redistricting process: “Regardless of the shifts in population and political boundaries, responsible policy-making in Nebraska will require a sensible balancing of urban and rural interests.”

Some western Nebraska residents and Republican partisans are calling for the restoration of a two-house State Legislature, saying it would offer greater opportunity to defend rural interests. It’s fully legitimate to debate the pros and cons of the Nebraska’s unique Legislature. We find, on balance, that it offers considerable pluses, including transparency and enabling lawmakers, regardless of party, to contribute significantly according to their talents and dedication.

Proponents are clearly mistaken, though, if they argue that a two-chamber Legislature would significantly shift the urban-rural balance at the State Capitol in a way beneficial to rural interests. The U.S. Supreme Court has rightly ruled, beginning in the 1960s, that districts must reflect the one-person-one-vote principle, meaning each vote is roughly of equal weight. That means state legislative districts — whether House or Senate — must have about the same number of residents.

So, if the share of a state’s population is increasing in urban areas while that of rural areas is decreasing, the representation in both legislative houses will reflect that. There is no getting around that fact.

It’s ironic that complaints about excessive urban — meaning liberal — influence at the State Capitol are being voiced at the very time Democratic state senators in Omaha are wondering if the Republican majority on the Legislature’s Redistricting Committee will redraw their districts to undercut their reelection chances. Plus, term limits are set to push out about half a dozen swing-vote Republican state senators next year, with reasonable prospects that some of them will be succeeded by staunch conservatives.

In other words, even with urban areas picking up one or two seats through redistricting, you’d lose the bet if you wager that Nebraska state government is about to shift to the far left.

The wise course for Nebraska is for a positive politics that respects all interests and strives to accommodate them. Nebraska is a complex mosaic — of metropolitan areas, many dozens of small- and medium-sized communities, and huge stretches of farm and ranch country. Sound governance requires an appreciation for that diversity.

Responsible-minded candidates for governor and Legislature next year should demonstrate dedication to respect Nebraska’s widely varying needs. Voters, urban and rural, will be watching.


Grand Island Independent. June 16, 2021.

Editorial: Meeting vaccination goal benefits all Nebraskans

Nebraska ranked 24th in the country with 63% of its adults having received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine by last Friday. We have a good chance of meeting the July 4 70% vaccination goal set for the country by the White House.

About 57% of Nebraska adults were fully vaccinated, placing the state in 22nd place for that statistic.

More people have been vaccinated since Friday in our state and there’s still 18 days to go before the holiday. Reaching that goal would truly be something to celebrate for Nebraska. It means that we have stepped up proactively and done what we need to do to ensure that our state doesn’t experience another surge in virus cases.

The state reported 234 new cases last week, almost a 50% drop from the 378 cases two weeks ago. The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in the state had dropped to 28.43 last Sunday.

Another good sign for Nebraska is its rank as having the fifth lowest per-capita rate of infection, behind only South Dakota, Vermont, California and Maryland.

But because 16 states had rising numbers last week, including Kansas, we can’t become lackadaisical. We need to continue vaccinating.

Some states have already reached the 70% goal for adults, while states such as Mississippi and Alabama are nowhere close. Nebraska is close and if those of us who haven’t gotten around to it yet go out and get vaccinated during the next couple weeks, we can meet that mark.

The 70% goal has repeatedly been called President Joe Biden’s goal. But regardless of your politics, this should be seen as our country’s goal, because it is so important to our entire country that we continue to vaccinate more people, open more businesses, and put people back to work who lost their jobs due to the pandemic.

Ultimately, the goal is to return to “normal,” with no fear of gathering together. That can be done as more people are vaccinated and we truly reach what has been called herd immunity, the situation where we can be assured that there are so many people who are immune to the virus that its spread is unlikely.

The big perk that comes with being vaccinated is self-assurance. We can be confident, once we’re fully vaccinated, that we aren’t putting ourselves or anyone else in danger of being infected when we go out in public without a mask. Isn’t that worth the 30 minutes and minor discomfort that it takes to go get a shot?