Gov. Jack Dalrymple today signed into law legislation that creates a permanent fund to protect and enhance North Dakota's great outdoors. The North Dakota Outdoor Heritage Fund will provide as much as $30 million a biennium for the preservation and enhancement of wildlife habitat, outdoor recreation opportunities and conservation projects.
"Our ongoing work to enhance North Dakota's quality of life must include the preservation and enhancement of our great outdoors," Dalrymple said. "With this fund, the people of North Dakota have tremendous resources to expand and enhance our opportunities for hunting, fishing and all outdoor recreation experiences."
House Bill 1278, the Outdoor Heritage Fund, received broad support from business leaders, representatives of conservation and agricultural organizations, the energy industry and other stakeholders. Many of them joined Dalrymple today to mark the bill's signing. The bill's sponsors are Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner, Sen. Stanley Lyson, House Majority Leader Al Carlson and Rep. Todd Porter. Sen. Jessica Unruh also worked with legislators in support of the bill's passage.
"Rapid growth in western North Dakota is creating many benefits for us and challenges as well," Sen. Lyson said. "This bill creates new opportunities for us to conserve our lands for future generations while working in cooperation with our state's rancher and farmers."
The Outdoor Heritage Fund will receive a portion of oil production taxes capped at $15 million a year. From the fund, grants will be awarded to state agencies, tribal governments, political subdivisions and non-profit organizations for conservation and outdoor recreation initiatives. A 12-member advisory board will review and recommend grant proposals for approval by the State Industrial Commission. The advisory board will be comprised of four members from farm-based organizations, two members from the energy industry, four members from conservation and outdoor sportsmen organizations, a member of the Greater North Dakota Chamber and a representative from the North Dakota Recreation and Parks Association.
Outdoor Heritage Fund grants can be awarded to enhance sportsmen's access to private and public lands; to promote soil, water and plant conservation; to enhance fish and wildlife habitat; for the development of parks and to support other conservation and outdoor recreation initiatives. The fund can be used to rent land, but not to purchase land.
"This fund is part of our commitment to meeting the needs that come with being a growing and thriving state," Rep. Porter said. "It will enable us to enhance our conservation practices and build on the many outdoor recreation activities that North Dakota has to offer."