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In July 2018, the Bakken Development and Working Lands Program (BDWLP) became available to landowners in the oil-producing counties of North Dakota. The program, administered by the North Dakota Natural Resources Trust (trust) is funded through the North Dakota Outdoor Heritage Fund, and several conservation, city/county, and energy producing partners in North Dakota.

North Dakota’s Outdoor Heritage Fund was established in 2013 as a multimillion-dollar program to provide grants for projects that enhance conservation practices in this state by:

• Providing access to private and public land for sportsmen;

• Improving water quality, soil conditions, plant diversity, and animal systems;

• Conserving and restoring wildlife and fish habitat; and

• Conserving natural areas and creating other areas for recreation.

Since its inception, the program has funded 156 projects totaling over $46 million.

The Bakken Development and Working Lands Program received $2,170,000 of OHF funds. To date, soil conservation districts and NRCS offices have provided technical support to over 30 landowners to develop grass plantings, fencing developments, and water systems to increase capabilities of rotational grazing systems and increase grassland health.

Implementing a grazing system and planting grasses and cover crops is one tool the program is using to provide options to landowners while increasing grassland health. The program is beginning to see results:

• 2,840 acres of rangeland have been improved through the installation of 58,300 feet of fence, and

• 1,120 acres of grasses and cover crops have been planted.

BDWLP is a tool that landowners, including those that have energy development on their land, can use to improve/enhance their grasslands. The response has been positive from energy companies and landowners alike. The trust and the North Dakota Petroleum Council (NDPC) have worked together to bring the program to the NDPC’s members and initiate conversations between those companies and the landowners who have development on their property. Our goal is to work alongside energy-producing companies to make the North Dakota landscape as healthy and productive as possible, while staying focused on conservation and public utilization opportunities.

BDWLP partners, NDSU extension soil scientist Chris Augustin, and the US Fish and Wildlife Service are identifying public land sites which have had energy production facilities in the past. The goal is to enhance surface management and diversity for wildlife through implementing grazing systems. To accomplish this, Augustin is studying soil characteristics within the sites to determine applicable soil amendments and associated grass establishment opportunities where currently none exist.

Recently, the trust and its partners met with an energy company with operating sites adjacent to the Little Missouri River Corridor and discussed reclamation and revitalization opportunities. BDWLP partners with the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR). While DMR reclaims abandoned wells and well sites, BDWLP will revitalize the entire surrounding area. This will give producers options to enhance their grazing systems and will create habitat on irregular lands near development sites.

The project will also create urban nature/ interpretive sites near towns within the Bakken.

Work is underway to restore and maintain native prairie ecosystems while enhancing public areas. Currently, Watford City has begun construction and Dunn Center is in the planning stages for an interpretive site.