U.S. Senator Kevin Cramer is continuing his work to promote cooperative federalism by hosting Biden Administration regulators to meet with North Dakota industry stakeholders, to hear concerns about how regulations may be burdening producers’ operations.
Last week, Cramer hosted U.S. Department of the Interior Assistant Secretary of Fish and Wildlife and Parks (FWP) Shannon Estenoz to discuss how to improve Fish and Wildlife Services (FWS) enforcement of Waterfowl Production Area or (WPA) easements in North Dakota.
In a statement Cramer said, “Landowners and agriculture producers in North Dakota have had to struggle with the Fish and Wildlife Service’s rigidity and heavy-handed enforcement of their conservation easements for a long time.”
Cramer went onto say, “The agency has infringed on our property rights and hurt our farmers’ production, and while we made some progress with the Trump Administration by creating new maps with the first-ever appeals process, the bureaucracy has remained intransigent. I thank Assistant Secretary Estenoz for following through on her commitment to come to our state and hear about these concerns directly from North Dakotans. I hope her expertise in wetland management, combined with the input she received today, will help create necessary change within the Fish and Wildlife Service and produce real results for our state.”
The day started with a visit to Smith Farms near Granville, North Dakota, for a firsthand view of the problems with FWS enforcement of WPA easements.
Following a roundtable discussion with local leaders and North Dakota landowners and agriculture producers, Cramer said in a press briefing, [State leaders are] “Just trying to get some consistency of the mapping process and appeals process that doesn’t require a bank and lawyers for every farmer over years and years. And, just to this point hasn’t worked. We’ve gotten better maps. I think we’re creating a nice record.”
At the heart of the problem, farmers’ land is occupied by so-called prairie potholes: a patchwork of temporary and semi-permanent wetlands. The wetlands are not connected by stream, but rather made from snowmelt and, to a lesser degree, groundwater flows.
The wetlands are home to North American waterfowl breeding populations and conservationists argue they are under threat mainly due to drainage for agriculture.
U.S. Senator Hoeven (R-ND) explained the importance of Secretary Estenoz’s visit to Smith Farms, getting a firsthand view of the problem, and hearing directly from farmers and ranchers.
“We’re asking the Secretary to make sure that our farmers get fair treatment. That’s what this is all about,” explained Hoeven.
It was Estenoz’s first day outside of Washington D.C. in her capacity as the Interior Assistant Secretary and Cramer is hopeful Estenoz will bring a fresh new perspective that will translate into results.
“There’s really no substitute for listening to folks on the ground and hearing their perspectives. We absolutely want the public to always feel that the government is treating them fairly,” explained Estenoz.
Senator Cramer outlined the problems he sees with Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) enforcement of Waterfowl Protection Area (WPA) Easements with Shannon Estenoz, during a Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee hearing on her nomination on May 13th, 2021.