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Outdoor Heritage Fund board to seek clarification on eligible projects

BISMARCK -- The chairman of the Outdoor Heritage Fund Advisory Board said Tuesday the panel will seek clarification on what types of projects are eligible for the fund after the first grant round drew a number of applications that didn't appear to fit the fund's intent.

Board members heard 66 presentations from applicants Monday and Tuesday and considered a total of 74 applications totaling more than $34 million in grant requests.

Members were still discussing and scoring the applications Tuesday before voting on which grants to recommend to the North Dakota Industrial Commission for final approval.

The 2013 Legislature created the fund to provide competitive grants to support projects related to conservation, agriculture and recreation. The fund is limited to $30 million every two years from state oil and gas production tax revenue.

Board chairman Wade Moser said the presentations "went very well," but while there were many good projects, the Outdoor Heritage Fund was "maybe not the right source for funding."

State Rep. Todd Porter, R-Mandan, who sponsored the bill that created the fund, said last week he was "kind of surprised" at the types of applications, including grant requests for research and development. Porter spoke to the board Monday about the bill's legislative intent.

Based on that presentation and the board's review of applications, Moser said members identified the need for the Industrial Commission to clarify areas not eligible for the fund -- research projects, road paving and staffing requests being three such areas that arose during the first round, he said.

The board plans to bring policy recommendations to the Industrial Commission to fine-tune the guidelines, Moser said.

"So, before the next round, they'll have a better picture of what is acceptable," he said of the applicants.

This is the first of five grant rounds scheduled in the 2013-2015 biennium. The deadline for the next grant round is April 1.

Rejection letters sent to first-round applicants will include suggestions for other funding sources, Moser said.

Eight applicants didn't give presentations because of scheduling conflicts or for other reasons, according to Karlene Fine, the commission's executive director.

Reach Nowatzki at (701) 255-5607 or by email at