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Published April 16, 2012, 08:33 AM

A CRP of North Dakota's own

The Greenway’s opening marked a turning point in the history of the neighboring cities of Grand Forks, N.D., and East Grand Forks, Minn. The miles-long riverfront park features paved bike trails, Frisbee golf, cross-country ski trails and pedestrian bridges across the Red River.

By: Grand Forks (N.D.) Herald, Agweek

The Greenway’s opening marked a turning point in the history of the neighboring cities of Grand Forks, N.D., and East Grand Forks, Minn. The miles-long riverfront park features paved bike trails, Frisbee golf, cross-country ski trails and pedestrian bridges across the Red River.

Popular place

Today, it’s on the short list of residents’ favorite Grand Cities attractions. It’s a powerful piece of evidence that the cities emerged from the 1997 flood “better than ever.”

And it shows the incomparable value that recreational amenities can provide.

North Dakota should take note.

Minnesota learned this lesson long ago. As a result, the Minnesota state park system ranks among America’s best.

In contrast, North Dakota has less public land than almost any other state. As mentioned before in this space, only Rhode Island devotes less acreage to its state parks — and Rhode Island is 1/70th North Dakota’s size.

Habitat and hunting

In the past, the Conservation Reserve Program has helped make up for this shortage of public land. Land kept in CRP provides terrific wildlife habitat and has made North Dakota a destination for hunters from throughout the Midwest.

But today, hunters face the potential loss of 80 percent of the CRP acres by 2015, participants at the recent Bismarck, N.D., conference on “The Future of Hunting” learned.

Farm bill implications

The next farm bill will have to be especially generous to convince farmers to keep conservation land out of production. But what if it isn’t?

If it isn’t, then North Dakota should consider making up some of the difference itself.

The federal program has proved its worth time and time again. North Dakota has derived tremendous benefits from it — enough so that the program should be kept strong, even if some of the federal funding falls through.

After all, the program not only provides healthy habitat for wildlife and recreational value for hunters, but also, it does so without the government having to buy the land. That makes it a comparative bargain, and a place where North Dakota’s traditionally prudent use of dollars could go a very long way.

Editor’s Note: Agweek and the Grand Forks (N.D.) Herald are owned by Forum Communications Co.

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