North Dakota Natural Resources Trust (NDNRT, the Trust) experienced a positive response to its Working Grasslands Partnership (WGP) program in Phase I and II. In fact, the reaction was so enthusiastic that NDNRT proposed Phase III – opening the program across half of the state (all within the PPJV landscape) – in the most recent request for proposals from the ND Outdoor Heritage Fund (OHF). On June 5, the Industrial Commission approved the project for full funding. The very next day, the Trust held a coordination meeting for field agents in Devils Lake to kick off the program.
The WGP focus is keeping expired or expiring Conservation Reserve Program acreage in grasslands. Limited lease dollars are available; the primary benefit comes from the 60:40 cost-share on water and fencing infrastructure developments. These enhance dormant or low performing acreage by improving soil health and increasing the quality or quantity of the forage. Technical assistance is available to help producers write better grazing plans, as well, with the new infrastructure and goals incorporated into them. Contracts are signed for a 10-year lease, which means 42,000 acres might be maintained in grasslands across North Dakota because of this program by the time the funding is allocated from all three phases.
OHF has played a significant role in the ability of the Trust to put the agreements into action. A percentage of the tax on oil production collected by the state goes into the OHF, which is managed by the Industrial Commission. Other partners integral in the outreach to landowners are ND Game & Fish Department, Ducks Unlimited, US Fish & Wildlife Partners Program, and Farm Bill Specialists. Some landowners contact the Trust office directly after learning about the WGP program.
The first contract for WGP III is already signed and there are several more in the works. The funding from WGP I is completely allocated, and about half of WGP II is under contract. Obviously the demand is there and those who have interest or questions are encouraged to contact Terry Allbee of the NDNRT at Terry@NaturalResourcesTrust.com“