The Legislature hereby recognizes and declares that it is essential to the health and welfare of the people of the State of Nebraska to conserve, protect, develop, and manage the natural resources of this state. The Legislature further recognizes the significant achievements that have been made in the conservation, protection, development, and management of our natural resources and declares that the most efficient and economical method of accelerating these achievements is by creating natural resources districts encompassing all of the area of the state. The Legislature further declares that the functions performed by soil and water conservation districts, watershed conservancy districts, watershed districts, advisory watershed improvement boards, and watershed planning boards shall be consolidated and made functions of natural resources districts. The governing boards of such districts and boards shall complete, before July 1, 1972, the necessary transfers and other arrangements so that such boards may on that date begin the operation of natural resources districts. The Legislature further declares that other special-purpose districts, including rural water districts, drainage districts, reclamation districts, and irrigation districts, are hereby encouraged to cooperate with and, if appropriate, to merge with natural resources districts.