We have had a deer hunting issue in front of us this past week in Natural Resources committee. Gratis licenses have been one of the issues in the bill. The House put in a provision that allowed 150 acres to be the benchmark instead of 160 as it has been for a long time. I voted in favor of that because most quarters of land are slightly less than a full 160 due to road variations, wetlands, farmsteads on the quarter sold for someone else to live on, etc. However, there are some problems with relaxing the acreage standards because we now have around 16,000 gratis licenses. Gratis (Latin for” free”) licenses started out to reward landowners because their land sustains the state deer herd. There were around 3,000 or so in the beginning, but because land ownership gets fragmented through the generations, we now have a situation whereby we have a lot more gratis tags and greatly reduced general deer tags available. We had quite a few years of issuing in the neighborhood of 100,000 or more and last year moved it down under 70,000, if I remember correctly. Anyway, you can see that the percentage of gratis tags to general tags is becoming pretty large.
A committee member brought an amendment to make it 300 acres for a gratis tag and now it is coming to the floor after having been defeated earlier this session. I understand how 300 would cut back on the number of gratis tags, although I am not certain by how much. With our average size of farms now over 1,200 acres and increasing, I can see how most traditional gratis holders would still qualify at 300. By the time you read this, it most likely will have been decided.
Oil companies are lobbying for various reasons and water people are appearing in great numbers as decisions are pending on many fronts. Last night I attended a dinner hosted by people opposed to the Fargo Diversion project. I grew up along the banks of the Red River and the house I lived in was eventually lost to a spring flood in 1997 after three decades of intense sandbagging. It is now a green space, so I understand what these people go through. What the best answers are is a matter for debate and emotions run high as property ends up on the right or wrong side of flood protection. Water retention in the upper basin of the Red River is on the table and one of the points of discussion for people living south of Fargo. Along with water being brought to Fargo through the Garrison Diversion Project and the Western Area Water Supply Project amongst others, we have a lot of decisions to make in the next 3 weeks or so. Here is hoping your basement stays dry in the coming melt.