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Sierra Club to Influence NPHF Management Plan
by Jacqueline Dotzenrod

The time for giving input on whether or not more than 500,000 acres of private land should be designated as the Northern Plains National Heritage Area is past –it was a discussion in which few had a chance to take part. However, the time for giving input on the management plan is coming and the Sierra Club figures to be at the forefront.

Northern Plains Heritage Foundation (NPHF) board member Signe Snortland has been delegated the task of organizing public input on the management plan. Snortland, former state archeologist and current employee of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, was recruited to the board.

“I was working with the Sierra Club on a similar idea (to the NHA designation) to try and I got a call that there was already a board in existence and they had identified me as a potential member,” Snortland said. “We were looking to see if there would be a way to identify cultural resources along the Missouri River to work with landowners to protect them (the cultural resources).”

However, much more than a mere study has taken place. In March, President Barack Obama signed into law H.R. 146 – which contains the legislation creating the Northern Plains Heritage Area. Currently, the area includes the entirety of Burleigh, Oliver, McLean, Mercer and Morton Counties. With the designation the NPHF board has the authority to write a management plan for the area which includes recommending “policies and strategies for resource management including the development of intergovernmental and interagency agreements to protect, enhance, interpret, fund, manage, and develop the natural, historical, cultural, educational, scenic, and recreational resources of the Heritage Area.”

While the NPHF board cannot directly change land use policies, there is potential to sway local governing authorities with its recommendations. The NPHF board will also have up to $1 million each year at its disposal to carry out the goals set forth in the management plan. A lot of entities will be seeking a piece of the pie, including a group hostile to property rights, the Sierra Club.

Legislation signed by President Obama does not prohibit the NPHF from granting money to groups like the Sierra Club. According to the Sierra Club’s website, the group is working to achieve four primary outcomes in their Resilient Habitats initiative:

  1. Plan an interconnected continental network of large, protected areas and corridors to serve as “climate adaptation refuges” to ensure optimal survival of species and habitats at risk due to climate change.
  2. Help establish five to seven major ecosystem resiliency reserves.
  3. Limit or eliminate non-climate stresses including habitat fragmentation, over-harvesting, invasive species, and disruptive human activities like oil drilling, logging and pollution.
  4. Where necessary, help species adapt by reintroducing native species, assisting in migration, controlling pests or disease outbreaks, or other tactics.

As part of its global warming campaign, the Sierra Club’s Climate Crossroads initiative has a land use section that insists on the following items:

  • Wilderness areas will require special preservation and protection efforts from invasive plant and animal species, along with prescribed burning of the wilderness floor to prevent catastrophic infernos
  • Pernicious human activity, such as logging, mining, and off-road vehicles, will need to be phased out
  • Soil regeneration and soil erosion prevention, as well as wetland restoration and healthy forest preservation, should be viewed as a way to help remove human-generated carbon from the atmosphere
  • All federal and state land management agencies should draft climate adaptation plans to protect native plants and wildlife under their jurisdiction. These agencies, in partnership with the Sierra Club and the National Academy of Sciences, should monitor improvements and setbacks as mitigation measures are implemented

The North Star Chapter of the Sierra Club published a widely distributed guide to influencing land use policies, entitled A Citizen’s Guide to Influencing Local Land Use Decisions.

The Sierra Club will be influencing land use policy decisions at the local government level, possibly with federal money received from the NPHF.

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