Nebraska National Forest


It's a unique place, an oasis in the middle of the Sandhills of Nebraska.
The Nebraska National Forest Bessey Ranger District lies in the middle of the Sandhills near Halsey.
"We don't think of nebraska having a forest and so I really believe that people don't realize
that until they get here and they go 'Wow! There are are trees here,'" said District Manager Patti Barney.
"President Teddy Roosevelt set aside the land for the forest in 1902. Then the hand planting began.
"It was kind of a slow process. There weren't a lot of people to plant. The forest service employed only a few people a year, so it was hard to plant with so few people," Barney explained.
The planting began to blossom in the Great Depression as the Civilian Conservation Corps joined the effort. At a centennial celebration in 2002, those men and women were remembered for what they started.
"They had tears streaming down their cheeks, that this indeed had become a national forest
and I'm certain when they were planting, they thought 'These trees would never make it. This is a ridiculous idea to plant trees in the Sandhills of Nebraska. How are they going to survive?' And here we are today with a beautiful hand-planted forest."
22,000 acres to be exact, making it the largest hand-planted forest in the country.
"I've had some people come and say I like to hear the wind through the trees and some come for that reason alone," Barney said.
The nurseries at the forest are still active, making it the oldest and smallest in the country.