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Outdoor Heritage Fund still getting the word out: Grant requests slow so far, but surge expected before Dec. 2 deadline

BISMARCK – Only four groups have applied for grants from North Dakota’s new Outdoor Heritage Fund since the application period opened a month ago, but the person handling the requests said she expects that number to surge before the Dec. 2 deadline.

“I’ve probably talked to two to three entities every day. It’s been pretty consistent for the last week or so,” Karlene Fine, executive director and secretary of the state Industrial Commission, said Friday.

The Outdoor Heritage Fund approved by the Legislature last spring will receive up to $30 million every two years from the state’s oil and gas production tax revenue. The Industrial Commission will distribute that money as grants for projects related to conservation, recreation and agriculture.

On Oct. 22, the commission approved the application form and review process developed by the fund’s advisory board, which will recommend projects to the commission. A letter announcing the first-round grant cycle was sent to various interest groups the next day.

Word is still getting out about the program, Fine said, adding that applicants are asking questions about to how to properly fill out the application form and how much budget detail to provide.

In the applications filed so far:

-- The Minot Family YMCA is requesting $50,000 to support construction of a new Community Outdoor Fitness Park estimated to cost $466,492.

-- The Barnes County Soil Conservation District is asking for $200,000 to support a $957,000 project to reduce the amount of sediment in the Sheyenne River Watershed, thereby restoring aquatic life and maintaining recreational uses of the river.

-- Sporting Chance, a nonprofit that provides recreational activities for people with disabilities, is requesting $20,000 to improve access between a newly built shelter and a boat landing on Nelson Lake.

-- Minot Indoor Rodeo Inc., a nonprofit comprised of members of the two Minot Y’s Men’s clubs, is seeking $75,000 to help build a $185,000 Wildlife Education & Recreation Center at Triangle Y Camp for youths on the banks of Lake Sakakawea south of Garrison.

Paul Kramer, vice president of the nonprofit, said the grant would lighten the debt load and make more money available for furnishings for the center, which will give campers ages 6 to 15 an interactive experience to learn about local wildlife and the history of the Lewis and Clark expedition.

“It seems like it would be a good fit for it,” he said of the outdoor fund.

Amy Moen, development director at the Minot Family YMCA, said its fitness park project also seemed like a “perfect fit” for the fund, and she said the grant application process was easy. Moen said she’s most excited about getting to present the project in person to the advisory board, which often doesn’t happen with grant applications, she said.

“I love doing that because I think you can show how passionate you are about the project and answer any questions they may have,” she said.

The advisory board will review the first round of applications the week of Jan. 13. The Industrial Commission, which consists of Gov. Jack Dalrymple, Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem and Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring, will consider the advisory board’s recommendations at its January meeting, which has yet to be scheduled.

Fine said she hopes to post the first round of applications to the fund’s website,, by Dec. 4.

To receive a grant from North Dakota’s Outdoor Heritage Fund, a project must meet at least one of four directives included by state lawmakers when they approved the fund:

Directive A: Provide access to private and public lands for sportsmen, including projects that create fish and wildlife habitat and provide access for sportsmen.

Directive B: Improve, maintain and restore water quality, soil conditions, plant diversity, animal systems, and support other practices of stewardship to enhance farming and ranching.

Directive C: Develop, enhance, conserve and restore wildlife and fish habitat on private and public lands.

Directive D: Conserve natural areas for recreation through the establishment and development of parks and other recreation areas.

Mike Nowatzki

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