Charles E. Bessey Tree Nursery


Bessey Nursery in Fall

The Charles E. Bessey Nursery, adjacent to the Bessey Recreation Complex, 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.

Please call the nursery to learn how to schedule a tour.

Picture of Nursery Manager Richard Gilbert Charles R. Bessey Nursery Charles R. Bessey Nursery Charles R. Bessey Nursery Charles R. Bessey Nursery

At a Glance

Usage: Light-Medium
Closest Towns: Halsey, NE
Operated By: Forest Service
Information Center: Office hours: 7:30 a.m. - 4 p.m., Central Standard Time
Richard Gilbert, Nursery Manager
Telephone: 308-533-2257
FAX: 308-533-2310 Postal Address:
Charles E. Bessey Nursery
PO Box 39
Halsey, NE 69142-0039

General Information

General Notes:

Tree Production

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 however current production is 1.5 million seedlings. 750,000 to 850,000 container tree seedlings are produced annually in 17,000sq.ft. of greenhouses.  Another 6,000sq.ft. will be added in 2018 and allow the nursery to produce another 150,000 seedlings.  The Nursery also serves as the Rocky Mountain Region 2 Seed Bank. 

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 North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Colorado, 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.

Our Mission

The Charles E. Bessey Nursery is dedicated to the production of high quality plant material for reforestation, restoration and conservation projects in The Rocky Mountain Region and the Great Plains States, while creating and enhancing mutually beneficial customer relations and partnerships. 

About Us 

To fulfill its mission, the Nursery maintains 46 acres of irrigated seedbeds for bare root production, along with 17,000sq.ft controlled environment greenhouses for container seedling production, and stores about 14,000 pounds of conifer seed to protect against natural disasters such as fire and Insect. The Nursery extracts, cleans, and stores seed obtained from cones and berries supplied by its customers. The seed is used to grow seedlings for customers requesting seedlings or ships seed to customers to directly sow the seed on to their forest. The Nursery staff consists of 6 permanent full-time and 4-8 seasonal staff. The staff is composed of two professional, four technical, and two business management employees. During peak work periods, the Nursery employs over 50 people.

CNN Great Big Story

The Bessey Nursery story starts at minute 20.

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