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'For future generations:' Wildlife advocate organizations seek cooperation in conservation

DICKINSON, N.D.—Wildlife groups and landowners are finding a common purpose, and considerable success, in conservation and land-use efforts. They are working together to build an intersection between private enterprise and public interest with regards to North Dakota's greatest treasure: its land.

"Yes, it is our desire and that of lots of sportsmen, hunters and anglers, that there be partnerships with farmers and ranchers and landowners with wildlife agencies to provide these opportunities," Wayne Beyer, president of the North Dakota Wildlife Foundation and director of the Wahpeton City Parks and Rec department, said. "There's an understanding that wildlife groups need to work together better to provide these opportunities."

Beyer, together with a conference of 18 different wildlife agencies, including the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Mule Deer Foundation and Pheasants Forever, have been working with landowners like Byron Richard to provide spaces where wildlife conservation, raising livestock and sporting can all take place.

"We recognize there's lots of other outdoor recreation interest ... bird watching, wildlife watching, (and) most of our state is private land, there's plenty of farmers and ranchers who do great jobs out there with wildlife habitat," Beyer said. "We do hope we can get the groups working together to expand."

The Richard Angus Access Project is designed as a Private Land Open To Sportsmen (PLOTS). Richard was recognized by the ND Wildlife Foundation with a soil conservation award at a recent banquet in Bismarck. He said that the recognition was thanks primarily to infrastructure improvements he'd put into the land.

"I think the fact that we were going out there and developing the fence infrastructure, putting that wildlife-friendly fence in, put the cattle in ... to allow the fords and riparian areas time to heal up," Richard said. "What it has (done) is it (has) enhanced wildlife activity down there."

Installing water pipelines on the property and establishing a water infrastructure has also been an important aspect of the development, Richard said.

He offered praise to the wildlife organizations that worked with him.

"They are very forthcoming in assisting with education and also funds, to entice people to look at different practices that benefit wildlife," Richard said. "They kind of come across as a liberal organization, but we need to look at incentivization and education, not regulation."

Beyer said that there are "definitely" revenue sources available through several different agencies that can help incentivize other land owners to offer their livestock lands for conservation opportunities. Beyer said land owners already have an interest in preserving their land for future generations.

"I think often, in most cases, they're great stewards of the land," he said. "These just present other opportunities to benefit from their wise use of conservation. A lot of our groups, we're looking to get young people out in the field, so providing space is critical to getting them out there. We're looking to future generations also, where it provides spaces for outdoor folks to get out there."

There's a wide variety of agencies who provide assistance and incentives for specific wildlife preservation activities. Beyer said that your point of contact, should you be interested in finding conservation use for your land, will depend on the habitat you have. Those who want to put land up for PLOTS use will need to contact the N.D. Game and Fish Department.

"There are other groups that have done excellent on-the-ground projects," Beyer said. "It's probably specific to what the property may be and who would be interested."