Senator Cramer pushes FWS candidate on conservation easements in North Dakota during nomination hearing

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WASHINGTON – US Senator Kevin Cramer (R-ND) described recurring issues with the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) Waterfowl Protection Area (WPA) easements with Martha Williams, candidate for director of the FWS, at a Senate Meeting on Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee hearing today. Yesterday, Senator Cramer met with Ms. Williams, who currently serves as Acting Director, to discuss the story of FWS ‘brutal enforcement of conservation easements and its impact on landowners and producers in Dakota. North.


“I’ve been through this with a secretary, two assistant secretaries now, a director of the Fish and Wildlife Service, and nothing has changed. Nobody did anything about it ”, said Senator Cramer. “I’m interested in doing it right and doing it in a new way. It is recognizing that water is water, that arid lands are arid lands and that contracts with landowners are important. You mentioned the importance of the prairie pothole region to ducks and migratory birds, but do you know who it really matters to? The farmer who owns it. The farmer who earns a living from it. The farmer who grows food for a hungry world population.

“Our farmers have been so abused by the federal government that they no longer want to enter these easements. They no longer want to keep voluntarily. In fact, in my state of North Dakota, many farmers are being punished because they did it before the Fish and Wildlife Service arrived. I want to know why I can count on you to do something different for the landowners as well as for the creatures who rely on good conservation practices ”, continued Senator Cramer.

Williams acknowledged that this situation is a challenge and recognized its importance to Senator Cramer and the North Dakotans.

“You gave me a challenge that I look forward to taking on and finding a more positive path in the future” Ms. Williams replied.

While there was no change in any appeal, even under the FWS Director’s review, the new mapping and appeal process created an administrative record that was beneficial to landowners and the state. Senator Cramer noted that litigation may be the only solution to this situation if FWS does not change.

Background:

September 2017 The town hall organized by Senator Cramer presented testimony from several North Dakotas upset that federal agents were armed when they came to their property to discuss easements, a practice which was later rescinded by the administration. Trump. In October 2019, then Home Secretary David Bernhardt traveled to the state to hear these issues directly, leading the FWS to issue a memorandum setting out a template for consistent application and the very first appeal process.
A subsequent site visit and roundtable in Devils Lake, North Dakota, with then-director Auriela Skipwith in August 2020 revealed that the new appeal process had proven ineffective in making the meaningful changes North Dakotas are seeking . Senator Cramer presented these issues to Assistant Secretary for Fisheries, Wildlife and Parks Shannon Estenoz during her PEW nomination hearing in May 2021. On her first official visit as Assistant Secretary Estenoz came to North Dakota to hear these issues firsthand.
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