In the News: ND Legislative Council Drafting Bill Regarding Fish and Wildlife Service Easements

Written by Lisa Andersen, Associate Attorney

The North Dakota Interim Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee was tasked with studying the “fiscal and safety impacts of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service easements in North Dakota on the Department of Transportation, Department of Agriculture, and counties.” 

During the 117th Congress, Congresswoman Michelle Fishbach, (R-MN-7), and Congressman Kelly Armstrong (R-ND-At Large) sponsored H.R. 7021.  The summary of H.R. 7021 states, “This bill prohibits the Department of the Interior from entering into a conservation easement with a term of more than 50 years.  The bill sets forth requirements for the renegotiation of a conservation easement at the request of an owner of land that is subject to a conservation easement that (1) has been in effect for longer than 50 years, or (2) was put into effect before 1977 without the creation of an official corresponding map.  Interior shall notify such an owner of the owner’s right to submit a request.” 

The bill was introduced on March 8, 2022, and was referred to the House Committee on Natural Resources.  According to Congressman Armstrong’s office, the bill has not been taken up in committee because it does not align with the current majority’s priorities.  However, this could change with the new Congress in January.

In October 2021, the North Dakota Legislative Council prepared a background memorandum on the wildlife easements study for the Interim Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee.  This memorandum set out a  history of the prairie pothole region and the Fish and Wildlife Service (“FWS”), as well as the boundaries of FWS easements.  Additionally, the memorandum lays out the North Dakota statutory provisions relevant to the study.  Lastly, the memorandum discloses the Committee’s approach to the study.

At the October 7 2021, February 15, 2022, and the September 7, 2022 meetings, the Interim Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee heard and received presentations and testimony from interested parties. 

At the Interim Committee’s last meeting, the members voted to have Legislative Council prepare a report and bill draft to prepare to Legislative Management. 

As of December 30, 2022, a draft bill has not been published online. 

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