AMERICA'S GREAT OUTDOORS: Salazar Highlights Two Proposed Projects in North Dakota to Promote Outdoor Recreation, Conservation

Projects Will Be Part of 50-State Report

Last edited 09/05/2019

WASHINGTON — Just days before the release of a 50-state report outlining some of the country's most promising ways to reconnect Americans to the natural world, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today highlighted two projects in the state of North Dakota that will be included in the final report — representing what states believe are among the best investments in the nation to support a healthy, active population, conserve wildlife and working lands, and create travel, tourism and outdoor-recreation jobs across the country.

Conserving the Dakota Grasslands and restoring and protecting riparian floodplain forests along a 75-mile expanse of the Missouri River are among 100 projects nationwide that will be highlighted in next week's report — two in every state — as part of President Obama's America's Great Outdoors initiative to establish a 21st century conservation and recreation agenda and reconnect Americans to the outdoors.

The report is a result of 50 meetings with governors and stakeholders held by Salazar and other senior Interior officials to solicit ideas on how to best implement AGO in their states. These projects were identified for their potential to conserve important lands and build recreation opportunities and economic growth for the surrounding communities as part of close engagement with Gov. Jack Dalrymple and the state of North Dakota, as well as private landowners, local- and tribal-elected officials, community organizations and outdoor-recreation and conservation stakeholders. The full 50-state report will be released in the coming weeks.

“Under the America's Great Outdoors Initiative, we are listening to the people of North Dakota and communities across America and working with them on locally-based projects that will conserve the beauty and health of our land and water and open up more opportunities for people to enjoy them,” Salazar said. “My staff and I have been asking each governor for the most promising projects to support in their states, and we will do all we can to help move them forward.”

The two projects in North Dakota highlighted by Salazar in the forthcoming report are:

Dakotas Grasslands

The Dakota Grasslands Conservation Area's millions of depressional wetlands constitute one of the world's richest wetland systems. These “prairie potholes” and surrounding grasslands are highly productive and support a great diversity of bird life. Once vast grassland, the Prairie Pothole Region is now dominated by cropland. But millions of wetlands and large tracts of native prairie remain. The Prairie Pothole Region is one of the most altered — yet also most important — migratory-bird habitats in the Western Hemisphere. It is the backbone of North America's “duck factory” and critical habitat for many wetland- and grassland-dependent migratory birds.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will seek to acquire easements from willing sellers on some 2 million acres of native-prairie habitat to benefit wildlife and support traditional economic activities, specifically livestock production. The proposal will expand land protection that the National Wildlife Refuge System already provides through several wildlife refuges and wetland-management districts in the area.

This project joins the federal government with agricultural communities and other partners in the Dakotas to conserve wildlife and its habitat while ensuring continuation of the regions' agricultural heritage.

Missouri River Forest Restoration Project

During the next three years, the Missouri River Forest Restoration Project will restore and protect riparian floodplain forests along the 75-mile expanse of the Missouri River between Lake Sakakawea and Lake Oahe. The cottonwood forests in the Missouri River floodplain are in poor condition as a result of progressive mortality of mature trees and the absence of natural regeneration. Restoration will provide important public benefits, including bank stabilization and reduced sedimentation, added food and cover in wildlife habitat, improved river-water quality, and enhanced outdoor recreation and conservation education.

Tree and shrub plantings are proposed on three state-owned or -managed sites and adjacent private lands along the Missouri River flood plain. The Missouri River Forest Restoration Project supports AGO goals by conserving working forest landscapes and habitat while creating youth engagement and recreation opportunities.

The report will also include potential actions by Interior and its bureaus to support the projects identified. In North Dakota, for example, the Department could provide financial and technical assistance for the planning, supplies, and replanting trees and shrubs along the Missouri floodplain. The Department could also collaborate with youth corps for project work.

In the Dakota Grasslands, the Department could provide technical and financial assistance to acquire conservation easements to protect up to 1.7 million acres of grassland habitat and 238,000 acres of associated wetlands.

The Department of the Interior will work with each of its key bureaus — including the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service — to direct available resources and personnel to make these projects a reality.

“The America's Great Outdoors Initiative turns the conventional wisdom about the federal government's role in conservation on its head,” Salazar said. “Rather than dictate policies or conservation strategies from Washington, it supports grassroots, locally driven initiatives.”

For more information on the President's America's Great Outdoors initiative, click here.

To view a map of the projects already announced, click here.


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