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Planting for the Future project will add 55,000 trees in North Dakota

Dave Nehring, owner of Habitat Unlimited in Bismarck, kneels on Thursday, Dec. 14, in a privately owned plot of land filled with cedar and juniper trees planted in 2014 for one of the Outdoor Heritage Fund tree planting projects to increase wildlife habitat southeast of McKenzie. He is now a consultant for a new tree planting project with the North Dakota Petroleum Council. Mike McCleary / Bismarck Tribune

BISMARCK—About 55,000 trees will be planted in North Dakota over the next few years through a partnership involving the state Outdoor Heritage Fund, the oil and gas industry and private landowners.

The North Dakota Industrial Commission approved last week about $108,000 in grant funding to support a tree habitat program proposed by the North Dakota Petroleum Council.

The Planting for the Future project will involve 30 tree planting projects, with the first six planned for Burleigh, Kidder, Emmons and Wells counties in central North Dakota.

Private landowners in Morton and Stark counties also have expressed strong interest, said Tessa Sandstrom, spokeswoman for the Petroleum Council.

Oneok, which gathers and processes natural gas in western North Dakota, will plant about 20,000 of the trees to satisfy a requirement of the Public Service Commission.

The agency requires companies to replace two trees for every one tree that is removed during pipeline construction.

But in some cases, landowners in western North Dakota have all the trees they want and they turn down the additional trees, said Jim Melchior, chairman of the Outdoor Heritage Fund advisory board.

"These tree plantings will be put in areas other than the actual pipeline route," Melchior said.

Most of the projects will involve large-scale plantings of about 2,000 trees, with private landowners providing in-kind labor to help plant, water and maintain the trees.

Partnering with landowners will be key to the project's success, Sandstrom said.

"We want to make sure these plantings stay there for generations to come," she said.

The lead habitat consultant for the project is Dave Nehring who owns Habitat Unlimited in Bismarck, a company that specializes in custom planting strategies to enhance wildlife habitat on private land.

"I think it's a great way for us to get some additional wildlife habitat in the state of North Dakota," Nehring said.

In addition to the Outdoor Heritage Fund grant, which comes from oil and gas production tax revenue, the industry will contribute about $50,000 for the project with landowner in-kind contributions estimated at about $39,000.

"We believe the partnership has the potential to make a much greater improvement on the available woody habitat of North Dakota than any single project alone," Todd Kelvington, environmental compliance supervisor for Oneok, wrote in a letter to the grant advisory board.

All trees are required to be at least 2 years old and the trees will be monitored for up to three years after they are planted.

The Petroleum Council is accepting applications from landowners around the state. For more information, call 701-223-6380. Applications will be accepted online after Monday, Jan. 8, with information at www.ndoil.org/PlantingForTheFuture.

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