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Outdoor Heritage Fund provides for ag conservation solutions

BISMARCK, N.D. -- The Cover Crop and Livestock Integration pilot project is not the only agriculture-related project for which Ducks Unlimited has gone to the North Dakota Outdoor Heritage Fund for money. In fact, of five projects funded by the f...

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BISMARCK, N.D. - The Cover Crop and Livestock Integration pilot project is not the only agriculture-related project for which Ducks Unlimited has gone to the North Dakota Outdoor Heritage Fund for money. In fact, of five projects funded by the fund in which Ducks Unlimited plays a role, four have agricultural connections.

OHF is overseen by the North Dakota Industrial Commission and was established in 2013 to provide grants to state agencies, tribal governments, political subdivisions and nonprofit organizations, with higher priority given to projects that enhance conservation practices in the state. Among the fund's main objectives are provisions to improve, maintain and restore water quality, soil conditions, plant diversity and animal systems, and to enhance farming and ranching by supporting other practices of stewardship.

The fund has put considerable money into agriculture conservation programs, including more than $2.7 million on the four agriculture-related projects in which Ducks Unlimited is involved.

The objective of another recently approved project, the Grasslands Enhancement Pilot Project, is to better utilize grasslands on public lands that are open to grazing by supporting infrastructure for rotational grazing systems, says Dane Buysse, a Ducks Unlimited biologist.

The project, which received $230,000 from the Outdoor Heritage Fund, will pay 60 percent of costs, including cross fencing and water infrastructure, while producers will pay 40 percent. The five-year agreements will run at the same time as leases on the public lands, but the infrastructure developed will be depreciated out over 10 years for producers, and any cross fencing and permanent water improvements will remain with the property.


North Dakota Department of Trust Lands will provide rent credits to lessees for funding permanent water developments, like well holes and casings, and Fish and Wildlife Service will do the same on Waterfowl Production Areas. Trust Lands also will provide technical assistance through their surface management team. Ducks Unlimited will provide outreach, funding for wetland restorations and technical assistance. Dakota Missouri Valley and Western Railroad will provide funding for fencing materials along railroad right-of-way when deemed necessary. Buysse explains that sportsmen have reported that some areas on school trust, public land and adjacent private land were overgrazed while others were under grazed. That has hurt waterfowl development in those areas, too, he says.

By moving cattle more effectively across acres, the project hopes to improve quality for ranchers and for sportsmen who hunt on the lands.

Buysse says the project also will include water infiltration testing to monitor rangeland or grassland quality to allow lessees to see the impact rotational grazing can have on the property. Organizers hope to show that rotational grazing will capture more water and make the land more drought tolerant.

The project covers much of northwest North Dakota, including all or part of Burke, Bottineau, Burleigh, Divide, McHenry, McLean, Mountrail, Pierce, Renville, Rolette, Sheridan and Ward counties. Buysse says several producers are working on agreements with the project, and substantial funding remains. For more information, contact him at 701-355-3584 or dbuysse@ducks.org .

Other agriculture-related Outdoor Heritage Fund projects in which Ducks Unlimited is involved include the Working Grasslands Partnership, with the North Dakota Natural Resources Trust at the helm, and the Enhanced Grazing Lands and Wildlife Habitat project. Both projects seek to help producers keep expiring Conservation Reserve Program acres in grass for grazing.

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