North Dakota generating attention to its outdoor policies

Farm Forum

Converging forces in North Dakota are pushing the state to the forefront in conservationists’ efforts to protect fields and streams, according to Collin O’Mara, president of the National Wildlife Federation.

“North Dakota is the most important state in the whole country for wildlife … The Farm Bill being scaled back is being felt in other states, but it is amplified here,” said O’Mara, who was the keynote speaker on Jan. 17 at the fifth Future of Hunting in North Dakota workshop held at the Ramada Inn in Bismarck.

O’Mara described the state as a hub for outdoors activity that draws people from all over the country, and, as a result, North Dakota generates much attention to its outdoor policies.

“Bakken impacts are unique to this state,” said O’Mara, who also pointed to the lessened Conservation Reserve Program funds through the Farm Bill and growing agricultural profits to be made from land once set aside for conservation. “A perfect storm against wildlife conservation is taking place.”

Attendees of the workshop pointed to two goals the North Dakota Wildlife Federation would like to achieve. The first is to create a statewide CRP program and the second is to form a coalition of outdoors-minded people to help push forward a cohesive voice.

“Wildlife needs habitat, and outdoorsmen need access,” said Mike McEnroe, president of the North Dakota Wildlife Association. “We don’t have the money, but we do have the voices.”

Eric Lundstrom, of Ducks Unlimited of Bismarck, agreed a coalition of voices is needed.

“We haven’t done a very good job of mobilizing our sportsmen and women,” he said.

McEnroe points to what he describes as the woeful funding of the Heritage Fund at $30 million, when what is needed to fund a CRP program in the state is $120 million.

“Asphalt walking paths and playground furniture are not going to get us there,” he said.