Supporters say Clean Water petition on track for vote
GRAND FORKS — Supporters of North Dakota’s Clean Water, Wildlife and Parks Amendment say they’re on track to gather the 27,000 petition signatures required by early August to get the measure on the November ballot.
“We’re ahead of schedule with signatures,” said Steve Adair, chairman of the North Dakota Clean Water, Wildlife and Parks Coalition. “Our goal is 40,000 and we’re on track to reach our goal.”
If approved by voters, the measure would dedicate 5 percent of North Dakota’s oil extraction taxes annually to projects that improve water quality, fish and wildlife habitat, parks and outdoor recreation. A Clean Water, Wildlife and Parks Commission consisting of the governor, attorney general and agriculture commissioner would oversee the fund, projected at more than $70 million annually, and a 13-member citizen panel appointed to three-year terms would review funding applications and make recommendations to the commission.
Adair and coalition members Becky Jones-Mahlum and Carmen Miller, Bismarck, and Dick Monson of Valley City, visited with members of the Herald’s editorial board Wednesday afternoon to offer an update on the petition drive and the need for more conservation funding in North Dakota.
“From our perspective, the need for this continues to grow and elevate,” Adair said.
As examples, he said North Dakota hasn’t added a new state park in 30 years, and the state Game and Fish Department is offering 48,000 deer licenses this fall — the lowest since 1980 — in response to plummeting whitetail populations.
The measure has drawn strong opposition from groups such as the North Dakota Farm Bureau, North Dakota Farmers Union and the North Dakota Chamber of Commerce. Coalition supporters on Wednesday, though, said more than 90 organizations have signed formal endorsements supporting the amendment.
The measure is not a “land grab,” Adair said, but would instead provide funding to farmers, ranchers and others to implement conservation practices.
“Buying land is not a viable conservation tool,” he said. “This would give us a pot of money to make conservation economically viable.”
Nationwide, 33 states, including Minnesota, have passed measures dedicating funding to conservation. North Dakota ranks 42nd nationally in funding for conservation, Adair said.