County hosts hearing on DU property purchase
By Don Winter, BHG News Service
Tuesday’s county commission meeting was the site of a spirited debate in front of a commission assembled by North Dakota’s Department of Agriculture consisting of representatives of the North Dakota Stockmen’s Association, North Dakota Farm Bureau, ND Game and Fish Department, ND Park and Recreation Department, ND Forest Service, members of the Department of Agriculture, and concerned citizens. According to North Dakota Century code, upon receipt of a Natural Areas Acquisition proposal by a nonprofit organization, the Department of Agriculture must assemble a committee of the above organizations to hold a hearing on the proposal and make a recommendation to the governor on whether to approve or disapprove allowing the project to proceed. On April 2, 2009, Ducks Unlimited submitted a plan to the NAAC to purchase approximately 320 acres located in Mercer Township of McLean County. The property is currently owned by a California gentleman, and agreement has been reached with Ducks Unlimited agreeing to purchase the property. Ducks Unlimited had two representatives at the meeting. As an introduction, they described the property as consisting of 30 acres of wetland, 80 acres of native prairie, and 210 acres of land enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program. Ducks Unlimited would manage the property as a conservation natural area in an attempt to maintain the local biota. DU will have the property open for public use including hunting and will pay taxes in full. DU will also make a good faith effort to address previously stated concerns by NAAC members that the issue is taking land out of Agricultural production. However, this property as part of the Missouri Coteau is uniquely important as nesting habitat and is an extremely critical landscape. Research by DU and the US Fish and Wildlife Service suggests the potential of establishing 80 to 100 nesting pair of waterfowl per square mile for the property.