Hoeven won’t push for transfer of Lake Oahe public land

Farm Forum

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — U.S. Sen. John Hoeven will not push a bill that would permit the transfer of public land around Lake Oahe to the state of North Dakota and possibly to private landowners, following criticism last spring.

The federal government bought the land when dams were built on the Missouri River in the mid-1900s. Some of it is now considered “excess” — no longer needed for flood control.

The 2015 Legislature passed a bill encouraging Republican Gov. Jack Dalrymple to work with the state’s congressional delegation on a bill in Congress authorizing the transfer of more than 9,000 acres south of Bismarck-Mandan.

Former state wildlife chief Randy Kreil and some Democrats publicly opposed the idea in May, saying it would be unfair to thousands of hunters, anglers and outdoors enthusiasts who use the land.

Hoeven, a Republican, will not submit a bill because there’s no consensus among residents, local officials and outdoor recreationists on the issue, his chief of staff, Ryan Bernstein, told The Bismarck Tribune on July 14.

“It’s up to the Legislature on how that should be done,” he said.

Kreil said news of Hoeven’s decision was “good to hear.” Rep. Jim Schmidt, R-Huff, who sponsored last year’s bill, said on July 14 that sportsmen have the wrong idea and that access to boat ramps and other public facilities would not be interrupted.

Schmidt said in a 1996 letter to then-U.S. Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., that his family has an interest in some of the land. The Associated Press obtained the letter from state Game and Fish Department files through a Freedom of Information Act request.

Schmidt told the Tribune that any land returned to his family would have remained open to public hunting.