North Dakota conservation agency faces backlog of requests

Farm Forum

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) – The Natural Resource Conservation Service in North Dakota is tackling a backlog of wetland determination requests.

Producers who want to use certain U.S. Department of Agriculture programs have been prohibited from draining wetlands since the passage of the 1985 Farm Bill, The Bismarck Tribune ( reported. The NCRS, a division of the agriculture department, has to determine what constitutes a wetland and how producers can farm in those areas.

The NRCS’ North Dakota office has used new techniques to decrease the backlog, but officials say more improvement is needed.

North Dakota Farm Bureau president Darryl Lies said many producers shouldn’t have to wait years to find out what they’re allowed to do on their land.

“That’s unacceptable,” he said.

Officials say advancements in subsurface tile drainage technology in 2011 and 2012 helped lead to a significant increase in requests for wetland determinations.

The backlog has gone from nearly 4,000 to more than 700. NRCS’ North Dakota’s assistant state conservationist for compliance, Jenny Heglund, said 500 to 800 requests come in annually and that it might take a few years to get to the bottom of the backlog.

Heglund said the new process also has cleared up some misunderstandings and has allowed producers to provide photographs and information about drainage that helps the process.

“They’ll do whatever they can to give information up front to help make a determination that makes sense,” Heglund said.

Heglund said a team has been put together to focus only on making determinations for agriculture purposes.