Charles E. Bessey Tree Nursery


Row of trees in fallThe Charles E. Bessey Nursery was established in 1902 as part of the Dismal River Forest Reserve. It is the oldest seedling nursery managed by the USDA Forest Service. The Nursery was established to produce the tree seedlings used to create the "World's Largest Man-Made Forest", the adjacent Bessey Ranger District.

The Nursery and Ranger District were named in honor of Charles E. Bessey, a professor of botany at the University of Nebraska who envisioned a forest growing on the wide-open Sandhills of Nebraska. The Nursery is located about one mile west of Halsey, Nebraska near the geographic center of the state. The area is characterized by rolling sand dunes covered with grasses. The primary agricultural commodities in the area are cattle and hay. Water is plentiful. The sandy soil and plentiful water supply provide the Nursery with an ideal medium for growing seedlings.


The Nursery has a long-standing reputation for producing top-quality planting stock due to its deep sandy soils, abundant water and relatively long growing season. Production facilities and equipment are state-of-the-art. The Nursery is capable of producing 4.5 million bareroot conifer and hardwood seedlings each year. Current production is 2.5 million seedlings. The Nursery serves as the seed bank for the Rocky Mountain Region. The Nursery also serves as a source of container-grown seedlings. A 4000 square-foot greenhouse provides an annual production capability of up to 380,000 seedlings.

Of perhaps greater importance is the role the Nursery serves in forestation on the Great Plains. Since 1926, the Nursery has been producing seedlings for the Nebraska Conservation Trees Program for distribution to rural landowners in Nebraska. Conservation trees are also distributed to rural landowners in South Dakota and Kansas. The Nursery has produced seedlings for Bureau of Indian Affairs Reservations in South Dakota and Wyoming. These agreements have created strong and unique relationships between the Nursery and various state and federal agencies.


The Nursery is administered by the Nebraska National Forest and is the oldest Forest Service nursery in the National Forest System. Its primary mission is to provide quality seedlings and services for the national forests of Region 2, including Colorado, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Wyoming; the states of Nebraska, Kansas, and South Dakota; the Bureau of Land Management; and the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Its mission includes developing the best possible methods for producing quality seedlings, working with cooperative forestry to demonstrate successful tree growing practices, and sharing new technology.


To fulfill its mission, the Nursery maintains 46 acres of irrigated seedbeds, along with a controlled environment greenhouse. The Nursery also maintains the Region 2 Seed Bank. The Nursery extracts, cleans, and stores seed obtained from cones and berries supplied by its customers. The Nursery uses the seed to grow seedlings for customers requesting seedlings or ships seed to customers expecting to directly sow the seed. The Nursery staff consists of two permanent full-time, four permanent part-time, and two shared-time personnel. The staff is composed of two professional, four technical, and two business management employees. During peak work periods, the Nursery employs over 50 people.

The Nursery may be contacted by using the addresses and phone numbers listed below. Office hours are 8:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m., Central Standard Time.

Postal Address:
Charles E. Bessey Nursery
PO Box 39
Halsey, NE 69142-0039

Richard Gilbert, Nursery Manager
Telephone: 308-533-2257
FAX: 308-533-2310