DEVILS LAKE – Easements signed more than 60 years ago continue to be a source of frustration for North Dakota farmers who voiced their displeasure to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Aurelia Skipwith at a meeting held Wednesday, Aug. 19, in Devils Lake.
Skipwith was in Devils Lake at the meeting at Lake Region State College Chautauqua Center at the invitation of Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., who is chair of the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Fisheries, Water and Wildlife so farmers could talk to her about their experiences with the Fish and Wildlife Service Waterfowl Production Area Appeals process.
The half dozen farmers who spoke at the Wednesday meeting were unanimous in their disapproval of the appeal process’ effectiveness.
"I have not yet talked to one person who has had a positive experience with the process,” said Daryl Lies, a Douglas, N.D., farmer and North Dakota Farm Bureau president, who expressed doubt that the difficulties ever would be resolved.
“Will we ever get done with this?” he asked Cramer and Skipwith.
Dennis Miller, a Lawton, N.D., told Skipwith that the small parts of acres considered wetlands cause headaches trying to farm them because they are so tiny that farm equipment can’t be used on them.
“These small areas are not allowing us to farm efficiently,” Miller said.
Cramer told farmers that, while it didn’t seem like any progress was being made on the appeals process, Skipwith’s presence was proof it was.
“I want you to know how attentive this administration has been to us,” Cramer said. “It seems like we’re taking baby steps, but it’s baby steps in the right direction.”
Skipwith, who also toured a farm during her visit, said she would use the information she learned and the feedback from farmers to evaluate how her agency can better serve farmers.