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Outdoor fund board works out details of application process, technical review

BISMARCK -- Those seeking grants for conservation and outdoors projects through North Dakota's new Outdoor Heritage Fund will not have to present their projects in person to the fund's advisory board -- but it certainly won't hurt their chances.

Board members on Monday worked out the details of the application process, voting to give each applicant 10 minutes to present their project to the board. The board won't dock their score if they fail to appear in person, but comments from board members suggested applications will be looked upon more favorably if they show up.

"I would highly recommend that they do a presentation and be there for questions," said Robert Kuylen, vice president of the North Dakota Farmers Union.

The deadline for the first round of grant applications is Dec. 2. The board's 12 voting members will recommend proposals to the Industrial Commission, made up of the governor, attorney general and agricultural commissioner.

Some board members cautioned that giving 10 minutes to every applicant could result in all-day meetings depending on how many applications are received.

"I don't mind spending the extra time initially to get this thing up and running and give everybody a fair shot," said board chairman Wade Moser, former executive vice president of the North Dakota Stockmen's Association.

As approved by the Legislature last spring, the Outdoor Heritage Fund will accumulate up to $30 million every two years from the state's oil and gas gross production tax. The bill's fiscal note estimated it will generate $17.62 million in the 2013-2015 biennium.

The first month of revenues, which were July taxes payable in August, amounted to $715,111. Revenues from August taxes payable in September won't be known until next week.

Board members also settled on a technical review process for applications, agreeing to have them evaluated by staffers from the four agencies represented by the board's four non-voting members: the state Game and Fish Department, state Department of Parks and Recreation, state Forest Service and North Dakota Association of Soil Conservation Districts.

The technical review panel will provide comments and an executive summary of each application to the board, but will not score the applications. That responsibility will fall to the board, which will meet again Oct. 17 to finalize the scoring system.

The grant application period will open after the board's proposals are approved by the Industrial Commission at its Oct. 22 meeting.

Current plans call for the board to consider four rounds of grant applications per year, but members will reconsider that at their next meeting after some raised concerns about the administrative burden.

The board also unanimously chose Jim Melchior of the Lignite Energy Council as its vice chairman.