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CREP changes earn local

Minnesota's farm groups wanted one thing. Conservationists wanted another. But both sides said Monday they can live with a compromise crafted by Gov.

Minnesota's farm groups wanted one thing. Conservationists wanted another.

But both sides said Monday they can live with a compromise crafted by Gov. Tim Pawlenty to idle 120,000 acres of marginal farmland.

Pawlenty announced Monday he will modify the state's application for the federal Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program.

The program calls for landowners to voluntarily set aside acres to promote wildlife habitat, control flooding and protect water from contamination.

The plan will help officials in Minnesota's Red River Valley better control overland flooding, said Kevin Scheidecker, coordinator of the Moorhead-based Red River Basin Commission.


"Much like any compromise, we're not totally satisfied, but we think we have something that is good," Scheidecker said. "CREP is going to be beneficial up and down the valley in different ways."

Scheidecker said he favored Pawlenty's original plan giving landowners the choice of offering permanent easements or 50-year easements.

Flood-control projects, Scheidecker said, require long-term commitments.

However, nearly all of Minnesota's major farm groups opposed Pawlenty's initial plan.

Rep. Collin Peterson,

D-Minn., took the side of farmers and landowners, saying permanent easements are too restrictive.

"I just don't think it's good public policy to have one generation tie up the land for two or three generations down the road," Peterson said.

Pawlenty's revised plan calls for permanent easements on 29,000 acres and 45-year easements on the remaining 91,000 acres.


Scheidecker said the plan allows landowners to sell

45-year easements on marginal land for any of the program's goals: flood mitigation, improved wildlife habitat or improved water quality.

Landowners also could sell permanent easements on 24,000 acres targeted for wetlands restoration and 5,000 acres for flood control.

"We think this plan addresses our concerns," said Chris Radatz, Minnesota Farm Bureau's director of government relations. "It's going to provide benefits for all parties involved."

Curtis Nelson, a retired Barnesville farmer, said he isn't interested in enrolling any of his 320 acres in the CREP Program.

"Some people don't want to give up their right to property," Nelson said. "For some people it won't fit at all, but for others it could be a good thing."

CREP could promote flood control projects along the Rice River near Ada, the Buffalo River near Barnesville and in the region's other flood-prone areas, Scheidecker said.

About 2,000 acres of the 5,000 acres set aside for flood control projects will be offered to landowners in the Red River Valley, he said.


"That's not a lot of acres in the Red River Basin for flood mitigation, but it will help," he said.

Clay County Commissioner Kevin Campbell said he shared landowners' concerns about giving the government permanent easements.

Still, he said, CREP is workable.

"Setting aside land for flood control is good policy," he said. "I think both sides have come to a good compromise."

Readers can reach Forum reporter Jeff Zent at (701) 241-5526

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