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Outdoor projects to see less funding

BISMARCK -- Outdoor projects will be scrutinized and prioritized more stringently after learning the Outdoor Heritage Fund will only get half the dollars it originally was expected to receive this biennium, according to the head of the state's co...

BISMARCK -- Outdoor projects will be scrutinized and prioritized more stringently after learning the Outdoor Heritage Fund will only get half the dollars it originally was expected to receive this biennium, according to the head of the state's conservation fund board.

Jim Melchior, chairman of the Outdoor Heritage Fund Advisory Board, said he was not surprised by the drop in funding that came from the updated budget revenue forecast released earlier this month.

The March 2015 legislative forecast put dollars available for the 2015-17 biennium at about $27 million; the new forecast estimates there to be $13.4 million. Outdoor Heritage Fund dollars come from a portion of the state’s oil and gas gross production tax revenues.

“We’re always searching for the project that most clearly follows what the Legislature had in mind,” Melchior said. “We’re still going to hold the grant rounds and be a bit more selective.”

Melchior said they’ll choose to forward projects that are “the best of the best instead of just the best.”

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The March 2015 forecast had oil prices rising from $43 per barrel to about $53 by June 30, 2017. The new forecast has the price going from $30 per barrel to $43 by June 30, 2017.

“We were expecting it knowing the (earlier) forecast used higher numbers. When we started the first round of grants, there was some concern of how much money there was going to be available,” Melchior said.

Six projects totaling $2.5 million were approved by the North Dakota Industrial Commission in December for the first grant round of the biennium. The NDIC has final approval over requests forwarded from the advisory board.

NDIC executive director Karlene Fine said, so far this biennium, more than $5.38 million has come into the fund.

“We were expecting a decrease,” Fine said of the dollar amount for the biennium.

Fine said there’s no concern at this point over cash flow.

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

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

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