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5 things to know today: Farmer accused, Burn pits, Database funding, New school, Saving grasslands

A select rundown of stories found on InForum.

Kurt Groszhans' family says he has a passion for farming and for Ukraine, where he has been detained and accused of attempting to have a high-ranking official assassinated. Contributed photo

1. North Dakota farmer accused of attempted assassination in Ukraine

A North Dakota farmer has been detained in Ukraine on allegations that he tried to arrange the assassination of a Ukrainian agriculture official.

However, Kurt Groszhans’ family and friends say he’s an honest businessman who appears to have gotten “tangled up” with the “wrong people.”

“He's just a good person, and he just has a passion for farming, and he just loved going back to the country where our ancestors came from,” his sister Kimberly Groszhans said in an interview on Monday, Nov. 22. “He didn't do this.”

“We are extremely concerned for his health and safety,” said his sister, Kristi Magnusson. “We just want him home and to be able to have a fair investigation into these circumstances.”

Read more from The Forum's Jenny Schlecht

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2. Local vet gives a voice to service members exposed to 'burn pits' in the Middle East

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Melissa Gillett LeDuc, 35, of West Fargo, was exposed to burn pits in Afghanistan in 2009-2010 during her service with the Minnesota Air National Guard. Robin Huebner / The Forum

Melissa Gillett LeDuc and fellow airmen had a running joke in Afghanistan sung to the Folgers coffee jingle — the “best part of waking up” was burn pit in their lungs.

Except, they knew it wasn’t funny.

She and tens of thousands of others were exposed over the years to the fumes and haze of open-air burn pits on U.S. military bases in Iraq, Afghanistan and other parts of Southwest Asia.

Read more from The Forum's Robin Huebner

3. North Dakota missing persons database gets funding two years after becoming law

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Ruth Buffalo of Fargo speaks about changing the name of Woodrow Wilson school during the Fargo School Board meeting in the Fargo South High Theatre on Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2020. (David Samson / The Forum)

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More than two years after the North Dakota Legislature unanimously approved the creation of a state-managed missing persons database, lawmakers put the funding in place to make it a reality.

During their special session earlier this month, lawmakers earmarked $300,000 out of the state’s $1 billion in federal coronavirus aid funding for the creation of a centralized missing persons database, to be managed by the Attorney General’s office, closing the loop on work started during the 2019 session.

Once launched, the database will fill a longstanding gap for North Dakota agencies and law enforcement, and backers are hopeful that it will provide an especially useful resource for monitoring the state's problem of missing Indigenous people.

Read more from The Forum's Adam Willis

4. West Fargo Schools looks to build new elementary school

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Graphic by Troy Becker. Location of proposed West Fargo School District elementary school.

The West Fargo Public School District is planning to build a new elementary school in Fargo to help ease overcrowding at Freedom and Independence Elementary Schools.

The West Fargo Public School District is planning to build its 15th elementary school to help ease overcrowding at Freedom and Independence Elementary Schools.

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At its Monday, Nov. 22 meeting, the board voted unanimously to buy land in the Rocking Horse Farm area in Fargo, west of Veterans Boulevard and north of 51st Avenue South.

Read more from The Forum's Wendy Reuer

5. Game and Fish unveils collective effort to save native grasslands in North Dakota

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Western meadowlark. (Photo/ North Dakota Game and Fish Department)
Contributed / North Dakota Game and Fish Department

A new strategy from the North Dakota Game and Fish Department will team landowners, conservation groups, scientists and others to enhance, restore and sustain native grasslands in North Dakota.

The vision of the Meadowlark Initiative, named after the state’s iconic, yet declining Western meadowlark, is to promote and create healthy, thriving grasslands that provide biodiversity and prosperity for wildlife, pollinators, ranching operations and communities.

North Dakota has lost more than 70% of its native prairie over time, and it will take more than the Game and Fish Department and its long list of contributing partners in the long-haul task of enhancing, restoring and retaining what’s left of North Dakota’s native grasslands.

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What To Read Next
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Participants are asked to preregister before Friday, Feb. 10.
The group meets monthly and welcomes anyone dealing with sight loss and their family members.
The event will be from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., on Tuesday, Feb. 7.