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  • Writer's pictureNorth Dakota Wildlife Federation

Administrative Rule Changes Coming for ND's State Trust (School) Lands

The Department of Trust Lands will hold a public hearing to address proposed rules and amendments to N.D. Admin. Code Title 85, at 10:00 a.m. CT, on August 26, 2020 at the Fort Totten Room, North Dakota State Capitol.

The proposed rules and amendments address additional Definitions, Surface Land Management Land Exchange and Land Sales, and Minerals Management Offset Obligations.

The proposed rules may be reviewed online at the web address:

The August 26th meeting will be open to the public over Microsoft Teams:

+1 701-328-0950 United States, Fargo (Toll)

Conference ID: 321 400 855#

How to Speak Up:

It is important the North Dakota Department of Trust Lands hear from North Dakota sportsmen and women. Written or oral comments on the proposed rules must be received by September 8, 2020 to be fully considered. Submit a comment through email or over the phone: or (701) 328-1918

ND Trust (School) Lands marked in blue in PLOTS guides make up 700,000 acres of huntable land for sportsmen

State Trust (School) Lands Talking Points:

● North Dakota started with approximately 2.8 million acres of School Land at statehood. Approximately 75% has been sold off leaving roughly 700,000 acres of Trust Lands in North Dakota. Public access is allowed for recreation (hunting, fishing, bird watching, etc.) provided it does not conflict with the constitutional mandate to produce income for the Trust.

● Access to these trust lands also provides hunters and other outdoors users with great outdoor recreation opportunities. Hunter access is a sought-after commodity in North Dakota bringing hundreds of hunters to small communities throughout the state, enhancing the economy for main street North Dakota. It is important to recognize the value and opportunity for enhancing and maintaining this asset for the future. The potential loss of access through the sale of Trust Lands will provide a private ownership blockade to Trust lands.

● The current economic value of these lands is primarily derived from grazing and agricultural production leases. Land sales or transfers do not guarantee that the land will go to the current lessee or the greatest good. It would simply go to the highest bidder resulting in a loss of future revenue and a loss for public access. There is a great potential for local farmers/ranchers to get outbid for the land they currently lease and have it converted to ranchettes and subdivisions.

● Management of these lands includes enhancing their values agricultural use and for outdoor recreation that can provide increased economic benefits to the state.

● North Dakota can’t make more public land. Keeping these Trust Lands in state ownership and improving management for agriculture and outdoor recreation will increase economic benefits to our main street businesses. Less than 5% of North Dakota is publicly owned. ND Department of Trust Lands is second largest owner of lands available for hunter access. Trust lands make up about 15 to 20% of public-outdoor recreation land in North Dakota. Resident and non-resident hunters do not support any additional loss of habitat and access.

● By law the state of North Dakota retains mineral rights. Selling the surface promotes more surface owner, mineral owner, and split ownership conflicts.

● Most Trust Lands are native prairie. If sold, conversion of native prairie or grassland to non-grassland or development property would likely occur, adding wildlife and habitat losses. In addition conversion these native prairie tracts will exasperate the difficulty livestock producers have in finding grazing and hay land.

● There has been an effort in the Legislature to sell ND Department of Trust Lands at least 3 time in the last 7-8 sessions. All 3 efforts failed.


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