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DEVILS LAKE, ND – U.S. Senator Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Subcommittee on Water, hosted U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) Director Aurelia Skipwith at a wetlands roundtable with North Dakota producers and landowners to discuss FWS’s handling of Waterfowl Production Area (WPA) easement enforcement.
“A focus of my tenure in Congress is the defense of private property rights. Today’s roundtable was an opportunity for North Dakotans affected by the Fish and Wildlife’s Waterfowl Production Area easement enforcement to address their concerns and provide direct feedback to the decision maker in the agency,” said Senator Cramer. “Thank you to Director Skipwith for traveling to the heart of the prairie pothole region. Hopefully she takes what she heard to heart and takes positive action.”
The event served as an opportunity for North Dakotans to offer firsthand feedback on a Directors Order Director Skipwith issued in January, providing the first-ever modern maps and appeals process for landowners who have perpetual FWS easements pre-dating 1976 on their property. The Order was a direct result of Senator Cramer’s roundtable with Department of the Interior (DOI) Secretary David Bernhardt in Hope, North Dakota, last October. Senator Cramer has been working with North Dakotans to properly utilize this new process and urging them to provide feedback to FWS.
The roundtable followed a field visit for Senator Cramer and Director Skipwith, where they were able to see a tract of land which is undergoing the appeals process.
In September of 2017, then-Representative Cramer hosted a town hall meeting, also in Devils Lake, on this issue with regional FWS representatives and local legislators, landowners, and producers. When Cramer moved to the Senate, he met with then-Acting Secretary Bernhardt to address FWS’s heavy-handed enforcement. He received the Secretary’s commitment to addressing this issue, specifically: 1) to finish updating easement maps; 2) to establish an appeals process for landowners who disagree with FWS; and 3) to update FWS guidance to provide greater clarity and consistency for easement enforcement. Today’s roundtable is another step in the Senator’s work with the Administration to bring these goals to fruition.