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Conservation fund requests forwarded to Industrial Commission

BISMARCK--The smallest dollar amount in requests for state conservation funds yet will go before the North Dakota Industrial Commission next month. Seven projects will be admitted to final stage for approval.

BISMARCK-The smallest dollar amount in requests for state conservation funds yet will go before the North Dakota Industrial Commission next month. Seven projects will be admitted to final stage for approval.

"They are recommending $1.03 million for seven projects," NDIC executive director Karlene Fine said of the Outdoor Heritage Fund Advisory Board.

The proposed projects, totaling $2.9 million, came from 13 applications received by a Nov. 1 deadline, according to Fine.

This month's state revenue forecast showed the amount of dollars expected to come into the fund this biennium at about $19.9 million, up from $13.4 million earlier this year. Outdoor Heritage Fund dollars come from a portion of the state's oil and gas gross production tax revenues.

The fund is intended to provide money for conservation projects and to provide public access to outdoor recreation areas.

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Prioritization of grant requests has become more stringent as the state's fiscal situation has tightened amid oil production and agricultural downturns.

"This time they looked at the numbers and said 'let's do the best of the best,'" Fine said.

The largest request to go before the NDIC is for $230,000 and is a joint project between Ducks Unlimited and the North Dakota Natural Resources Trust. The three-year project, called the Grasslands Enhancement Pilot Project, is intended to improve grazing lands northeast of the Missouri River through rotational grazing. It would include state school trust land as well as public and private acreage.

"That was a good one, I think," said Outdoor Heritage Fund Advisory Board Chairman Jim Melchior.

The smallest grant to be considered is for $82,054 to the North Dakota Parks and Recreation Department. The project consists of trail improvements along the Little Missouri National Grasslands on the Maah Daah Hey and the Buffalo Gap trails.

May 1 is the application deadline for then final grant round of the 2015-17 biennium.

Former Gov. Jack Dalrymple's 2017-19 budget proposal calls for capping the Outdoor Heritage Fund at $10 million for the biennium. In 2015, legislation capped it at $40 million per biennium.

"Some is better than none I suppose," said Melchior, adding it's early and he'll have to wait and see where the funding level ends up at in the spring.

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Information on projects and the fund can be found at the Outdoor Heritage Fund link at www.nd.gov/ndic .

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