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Gov. Jack Dalrymple announced the members of the Outdoor Heritage Fund Advisory Board at the North Dakota Heritage Center on Thursday.

Dalrymple announces Heritage Fund Advisory Board

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BISMARCK -- The list is out of the members that will recommend grants for outdoor and conservation projects from the state's new $30 million Outdoor Heritage Fund.

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Gov. Jack Dalrymple made the announcement Thursday from the North Dakota Heritage Center, calling the members of the Outdoor Heritage Fund Advisory Board a significant resource for conservation efforts.

"This is a historic opportunity to have such a diverse group of people to come together," he said. "It will be something to look back on in history and see it as a significant event."

The fund was created by the Legislature to address conservation, recreation and agricultural needs around the state using oil and gas production taxes up to $30 million a biennium.

The board will recommend grant proposals to the Industrial Commission, made up of the governor, attorney general and agriculture commissioner.

The board will have its first meeting Monday to elect a chairperson and begin to establish the grant application process.

Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner, R-Dickinson, who lobbied in favor of the fund, said Dalrymple did a great job selecting the board members.

"He has some individuals that are very passionate about conservation," he said. "I feel we're in good hands."

Terry Steinwand, director of the North Dakota Game and Fish Department, will be a non-voting member. Some projects he said he would like to see funded are getting tree rows planted, more 20-year Conservation Reserve Program easement contracts and help with the Private Land Open to Sportsmen (PLOTS) program.

But as Dalrymple announced the name of the board members, individuals around the state were collecting signatures to put a constitutional measure up for a vote in November 2014 that would create a Clean Water, Wildlife and Parks Trust funded by 5 percent of crude oil extraction taxes -- a figure projected to be $75 million a year by Jan. 1, 2015.

Steve Adair, who is leading that effort, said the four seats designated for conservation interests went to "really strong individuals with lots of experience."

But, he said he is disappointed about the number of lobbyists selected representing farm, business and industry.

"It's not setup to be visionary and proactive," he said, expecting the lobbyists to protect their policies rather than advocate for conservation projects.

Adair said it will be interesting to see how the board shakes out, especially as it gets into larger projects.

"It'll be an experiement to see how that progresses," he said. "I'd loved to be surprised, but I'm doubtful it's going to be very progressive."

The fund proposed in the initiated measure would be governed by a Clean Water, Wildlife, and Parks Commission comprised of the governor, attorney general, and agriculture commissioner. A 13-member board would make grant recommendations to that commission.

Every 25 years, the people would vote on the question of whether to continue the financing from the oil extraction taxes.

The measures' sponsoring committee hopes to collect 40,000 signatures -- it only needs 26,904.

Adair said Thursday they are halfway to their goal of 800 volunteers to collect signatures.

The main issues the group has with the Heritage Fund is the small amount of available money - $30 million - it's governance structure and inability to purchase land.

"As things grow, we need places to get our family outdoors, we're losing opportunities," he said. "The biggest need I keep hearing is cities need funds to acquire land for parks."

When asked about the level of funding in the Heritage Fund, Dalrymple said Thursday, "If it all goes as well as I think it will go, it will have a lot of public support and lawmakers may bump up the amount," he said.

Wardner agreed.

"As time goes on and we find out what they do, I think they will be needing more money put into it," he said.

But if the constitutional measure passes, Wardner said the Legislature is going to have to weigh in as the state won't fund two similar programs.

Outdoor Heritage Fund Advisory Board

By law, 10 members must represent specific groups, while two are appointed from the conservation community at-large:

-- Eric Aasmundstad, Devils Lake (North Dakota Farm Bureau);

-- Robert Kuylen, South Heart (North Dakota Farmers Union);

-- Wade Moser, Bismarck (North Dakota Stockmen's Association);

-- Dan Wogsland, Bismarck (North Dakota Grain Growers Association);

-- Blaine Hoffman, Gladstone (North Dakota Petroleum Council);

-- Jim Melchior, Bismarck (Lignite Energy Council);

-- Tom Hutchens, Bismarck (Ducks Unlimited);

-- Patricia Stockdill, Garrison (Pheasants Forever);

-- Jon Godfread, Bismarck (Greater North Dakota Chamber);

-- Randy Bina, Bismarck (North Dakota Recreation and Parks Association);

-- Carolyn Godfread, Bismarck (conservation at-large);

-- Kent Reierson, Williston (conservation at-large).

Four non-voting members representing specific state agencies outlined in the law:

-- Terry Steinwand, director of the North Dakota Department of Game and Fish

-- Mark Zimmerman, director of the North Dakota Department of Parks and Recreation

-- Larry Kotchman, State Forester

-- Ronda Vetsch, North Dakota Association of Soil Conservation Districts.

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Mike Nowatzki
Mike Nowatzki reports for Forum News Service. He can be reached at (701) 255-5607.
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