October 22, 2009

Heritage area provides funds, but draws concern

By Alyssa Schafer

Last spring some area landowners were a bit surprised and alarmed when five counties in the heart of North Dakota were designated as a national heritage area. Since then, the Northern Plains Heritage Foundation has spent a great deal of time catching up with rumors and trying clear up some misconceptions. Foundation board member Tracy Potter led a public discussion about the issue in Bismarck last week, hoping to dispel some rumors and start a conversation between heritage area supporters and the opposition. Dozens of landowners voiced their concern and reservations about the heritage area designation, which will include areas in five counties—McLean, Burleigh, Mercer, Morton and Oliver. The plan is still undergoing changes. Landowners will need to "opt-in" rather than "opt-out" of the heritage area, thanks to a pending amendment to the bill, which was sponsored by Sen. Byron Dorgan. The "opt-out" circumstance was one of several aspects of the hertiage area plan that made landowners uncomfortable, said Wes Klein, District 7 director of the North Dakota Farm Bureau.



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