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Hoeven approves Forks land acquisition

BISMARCK, N.D. -- Gov. John Hoeven approved Wednesday a proposal by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to acquire 3,070 acres of land in Grand Forks County as part of the Kellys Slough National Wildlife Refuge Complex. The move expands hunting access and recreational opportunities, Hoeven said.

The governor granted approval on condition that the land be open to the public and managed as a waterfowl production area, rather than as a National Wildlife Refuge, thus providing citizens with access to public hunting.

"We are always striving to find new and creative ways to secure additional recreational opportunities and hunting access for North Dakotans, and this acquisition represents a benefit for our sportsmen and our environment," Hoeven said. "It contributes to the remarkable quality of life we already enjoy in North Dakota."

Grand Forks County Commissioners approved the acquisition last fall, and the F&WS outlined the project to the governor in letters this spring.

"We are taking land not in production and putting it to good use, and that will help our economy, notably hunting and tourism," Hoeven said. "It's a good example of county, state and federal governments working together to benefit rural North Dakota."

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Hoeven stipulated that:

E Only willing sellers participate in the project.

E The consent is limited to a period of five years, and expires for any property that is not transferred within five years.

E The F&WS should construct and maintain a reasonable system of trails to enable access by the public, and to enhance public use and enjoyment of the land.

E The F&WS will implement a program to manage invasive plant species, notably cattails and leafy spurge, and assist in managing depredation of adjacent cropland.

E The F&WS will comply with all state and local laws and permit requirements regarding impoundment of water, and will secure title or easements on adjacent properties from willing sellers if salt leaching or flooding affects landowners.

"We are pooling our efforts to enhance and protect a valued resource in North Dakota," Hoeven said.

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