North Dakota Game and Fish Guidelines Should Respect Landowner Rights

Landowners across the state have united to express concerns regarding ND Game and Fish (NDGF) “draft” mitigation guidelines and their impact on landowner rights.  NDGF issued guidelines recently that significantly impact energy development in North Dakota to preserve native prairie and wildlife habitat, which is adequately covered under existing law.  Already, one developer was required to pay $500,000 to a non-profit conservation organization.  Landowners expressed deep dislike for the NDGF guidelines during a recent public meeting in Emmons County.

 Last week, during the Natural Resources Committee hearing, advocates for landowners expressed a growing concern about the NDGF guidelines impeding development. The Landowners Association of North Dakota, ND Farm Bureau, ND Farmers Union, ND Grain Growers and ND Agriculture Commissioner, Doug Goehring all expressed their opposition to the new guidelines, the impact upon property rights, and the unintended consequences of imposing a “one-size fits all” upon the North Dakota landscape.  The Utility Shareholders and ND Rural Electric Cooperatives objected to the guidelines as well.   

NDGF claims the guidelines are a result of a collaborative effort.  But none of the landowners or agriculture producers were part of the discussion.  Collaboration with landowners and associations representing the agriculture community must be an integral part of this discussion going forward.

Wind energy developers are securing permits in many areas in ND.  Developers and landowners are moving turbines onto production acreage rather than grasslands to appease NDGF. At the same time, some landowners will till the native grassland rather than being dictated on how best to manage their lands.  (So, instead of preserving native prairie, NDGF guidelines may cause landowners to plow under native ground).  These are the unintended consequences of a “one-size fits all” policy changes when valuable voices are not included in discussions.

This is a discussion that should start all over and include the people on the land at the front-end.  The Governor, for whom NDGF works, should direct the agency to start over with the landowners and agriculture community at the table.