Officials involved with a state conservation fund approved last year by lawmakers believe they’ve laid the groundwork for a successful program with the first dollars close to final approval.
The Outdoor Heritage Fund Advisory Board advanced its first batch of recommendations to the North Dakota Industrial Commission this week.
The Industrial Commission will take up the recommendations at its Jan. 29 meeting.
Eighteen recommendations totaling more than $5.9 million were recommended for approval. The 12-member board met on Monday and Tuesday and reviewed 74 total projects.
“I think everyone was maybe a little bit surprised, but at the same time no one really knew what to expect,” board chairman Wade Moser said.
The Outdoor Heritage Fund was approved during the legislative session earlier this year.
The fund is limited at $30 million per biennium with which the board will make recommendations to the Industrial Commission on funding requests.
The fund is intended to provide money for conservation projects and to provide public access to outdoor recreation areas. The fund is to come from oil and gas gross production tax revenues.
Moser noted that the largest recommendation was $1.9 million for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department. The request is for conservation and protection of fish and wildlife habitats on private lands throughout the state.
Close behind that request is $1.878 million for the North Dakota Association of Soil Conservation Districts. Their request is for a statewide tree-planting initiative.
“These are shovel-ready projects. Larger projects ... as much as anything else they were statewide,” Moser said.
Moser said in the case of each project, the recommendations don’t provide 100 percent of the funding.
“That was another thing we look at. They had to have some skin in the game,” Moser said.
The Game and Fish Department request comes from an approximately $2.73 million project; the soil conservancy group’s request comes from a $4.875 million project.
Rep. Todd Porter, R-Mandan, appeared before the board Monday. Porter was the primary sponsor of House Bill 1278, which created the fund.
“They had called and asked me to come in and give them an overview of the legislation and the intent,” Porter said.
Porter said numerous applications had related to staff, research grants and roadway projects. These weren’t the purpose of the fund and he made that clear to the board.
“I think they did a good job in setting their priorities,” Porter said.
Moser said the board plans to meet before the next Industrial Commission meeting to map out a set of policy guidelines on what types of projects qualify for funding. The commission would have final approval on those as well.
The list of recommendations can be found by going to www.nd.gov/ndic and clicking on the Outdoor Heritage Fund link.