March 27, 2023

North Dakota Looks to Work with Private Landowners for Habitat Development

Article Contact: Jake Gould, Bob Matthews,

Why It Matters: A working partnership between state fish and wildlife agencies and private landowners, particularly in states with limited public lands, is critical as agencies seek to fulfill their mission to provide opportunities for land access and support wildlife habitat conservation. State fish and wildlife agencies are best equipped for making science-based wildlife management decisions, and the ability to work closely with interested private landowners provides an opportunity to benefit all stakeholders.


Recently, the North Dakota Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources conducted a hearing for House Bill 1260, legislation that would allow the North Dakota Fish and Game Department to create a voluntary program designed to compensate private landowners for habitat conservation on their land. Additionally, the Director of NDGF can issue a special antlerless elk depredation management license to landowners who allow for reasonable public access lands enrolled in the program at no fee. As written, the landowners who apply for the special antlerless elk depredation management license will still pay the resident big game license fee.

State fish and wildlife agencies, like the North Dakota Game and Fish Department, are best equipped to make science-based fish and wildlife management decisions. With this in mind, CSF supports the ability of NDGF to create a program by which the agency can enter into voluntary agreements with private landowners to advance fish and wildlife habitat conservation objectives. Further, CSF supports HB 1260’s intent to create a system designed to expand access for sportsmen and women through a voluntary, public access to private lands program. Particularly for landowners facing challenges related to crop depredation by big game species, this program represents a win for both the state’s sportsmen and women who lack private lands of their own and for the landowner who will receive assistance in the form of additional hunters and special depredation management licenses for their own use.

In recognizing the importance of creating relationships with private landowners, and the importance of the state fish and wildlife agency’s ability to manage wildlife, CSF submitted testimony to the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources in support of HB 1260. CSF urges the Committee to support the passage of this bill, allowing for NDGF to continue and further their ability to successfully manage the Peace Garden State’s public trust fish and wildlife resources.

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