The recent Grand Forks Herald article, “Roseau County Landowners Coalition teams up with national nonprofit to oppose local flood control, wildlife project,” which highlighted the coalition’s partnership with the Institute for Justice, provided misleading information.

According to the article, a news release from the Institute for Justice, which the Herald edited before running, the MNDNR/Roseau River Watershed District was “demanding flood easements be installed just south of the Roseau Lake Basin on private farmland,” and “the government has threatened to take their land through eminent domain.” The article also stated the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council (LSOHC) “has committed $2.67 million toward this land grab.”

What is factual?

In 2016, the project received appropriation from the Minnesota Legislature for $2.763 million from the Outdoor Heritage Fund (OHF). OHF monies are dedicated “to restore, protect, and enhance wetlands, prairies, forests, and habitat for fish, game, and wildlife.” This project’s stated goal is to “partially restore a large drained lake, provide water level management capacity to substantially improve wildlife habitat conditions and provide flood damage reduction benefits.”

The LSOHC recommended the project for funding. The Legislature appropriated the funding. Of the OHF total, up to $570,000 is available for fee-title acquisition and $200,000 is available to purchase conservation easements. The acquisitions must be from willing sellers. The remaining OHF monies are for wildlife habitat restorations and enhancements within the project.

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Of acquisition activities in the project, 520 acres are fee-title and 250 acres are easements. Restoration and enhancement will affect 1,500 acres of wetlands and 1,500 acres of grasslands in the project.

By law, “Money appropriated from the outdoor heritage fund shall not be spent to acquire property by eminent domain unless the owner requests that the owner’s property be acquired by eminent domain”

All LSOHC meetings are open to the public (per law), open for public comment, and advertised as such.

This project has been in this open public process since submitted for consideration in May 2015. More information is available at: www.lsohc.leg.mn/FY2017/accomp_plans/5j.pdf, or contact DNR, the Roseau River Watershed District, or the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council. LSOHC responds to any inquiries or questions we receive about projects, processes or policies.

Johnson is executive director of the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council