The North Dakota Natural Resources Trust (Trust), along with their partners on the Outdoor Heritage Fund grant, are offering producers access to resources to keep their expired and expiring CRP acres in grass through the Working Grasslands Partnership Phase II (WGP II). The inaugural grant engaged more than 40 landowners to keep over 17,000 acres as grassland in the North Dakota counties included in the Declining Grassland Bird State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement (SAFE). Producers voluntarily opt in to utilize the expertise and financial resources offered by the partners to develop/incorporate the expired CRP acreage into a grazing rotation through the cost-share of adding fencing and/or water sources.
Now that the first phase is fully obligated, Trust staff had an opportunity to visit with one of the participants to see what their experience has been. Gordon Nord, a landowner in McLean County commented that, to him, land management for wildlife purposes is as important as that for production value. He worked with Ducks Unlimited conservation biologist, Dane Buysse, who introduced him to the WGP program and discussed the benefits of rotational grazing. Gordon noted that the CRP area “needed help” and decided that the WGP would have the broadest reach for that purpose.
Beyond understanding the value it would bring to his operation, he’s also an avid outdoorsman. Landowners who participate in WGP are encouraged to consider enrolling in Private Land Open to Sportsmen (PLOTS) offered through the North Dakota Game and Fish Department to allow public access, which was a significant component in Gordon’s decision. The first time he went hunting, Gordon was 14 years old. He continues to enjoy the comradery of hunting, plus all aspects of North Dakota’s natural beauty, and encourages other landowners to share the enjoyment by allowing public access.
To implement the WGP program, the Trust partners with the ND Game and Fish Department, Ducks Unlimited, ND Association of Soil Conservation Districts/Farm Bill Specialists, Pheasants Forever, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The field staff in those organizations located around the state work with local landowners to find available programs that fit with specific goals of their operation. The WGP II is a cost-share program that offers 60% on new boundary and cross fencing, as well as on water infrastructure development (e.g., wells, pipeline, tanks). There is potential for lease payments as a one-time payment of $50/acre on expired CRP acres. All agreements entered into are for 10 years with a buyback provision.
The coverage area for WGP II expanded by four counties—Barnes, Ransom, Richland, and Sargeant. A coverage map for counties included in the WGP II is at the top of this page.
For more information about the WGP II program or to find a contact in your area, check out the Trust website or call the Trust office at (701) 223-8501.