North Dakota To Decide Whether To Put Oil Revenue Into Conservation

North Dakota To Decide Whether To Put Oil Revenue Into Conservation

By Ralph Vartabedian, Los Angeles Times

North Dakota has a $450 million budget surplus and the nation’s lowest unemployment rate, but only about 725,000 people to enjoy it.

The state — a long neglected backwater — is becoming the Saudi Arabia of North America, growing into one of the nation’s most affluent societies.

Like anybody with newfound wealth, however, it isn’t easy to decide how to use it.

A contentious ballot measure this year is asking voters to approve a plan to divert 5 percent of future oil revenue to fund clean-water projects, wildlife preservation and parks.

The Nature Conservancy, the Virginia-based environmental organization, is backing Measure 5 with $600,000 so far.

The conservancy, which already owns and manages 16,000 acres in the state, says the ballot measure will help protect North Dakota’s distinct landscape, waterways and outdoor recreation.

It doesn’t mention hunting and fishing in its promotions, but at least some hunting groups are supporting the measure. Minnesota-based Pheasants Forever and Tennessee-based Ducks Unlimited, among others, are backing the proposal.

The disappearance of wetlands, contamination of waterways and loss of honeybees are a threat to the state’s very heritage, says Howard Vincent, chief executive of Pheasants Forever.

Both groups promote habitat for the birds, though hunters figure prominently in their mission.

North Dakota produced 314 million barrels of oil last year, making it the second-largest crude producer in the nation after Texas.

The state captures huge revenue through an excise tax, and the proposed park fund and trust would get about $150 million annually, based on current output and prices.

But the proposal has encountered stiff resistance from the agriculture industry, oil producers, education groups, builders and business organizations.

North Dakota is the nation’s largest producer of wheat, dry beans, and canola oil, the traditional products of the German and Norwegian immigrants who settled the state in the 19th and 20th centuries.

North Dakotans for Common Sense Conservation, an opponent of the ballot measure, asserts the effort is being funded primarily by out-of-state special interest groups and the large amounts of money diverted to the effort could result in “wasteful and irresponsible spending.”

The group says there is no spending plan for what could be a flow of $4 million a week.

As of early October, the campaign for passage had raised $798,375, the vast majority from the Nature Conservancy, and opponents had raised $577,950.

Photo via Elizabeth Flores/Minneapolis Star Tribune/MCT

Want more national and political news? Sign up for our daily email newsletter!

Advertising

Start your day with National Memo Newsletter

Know first.

The opinions that matter. Delivered to your inbox every morning

The Persistent 'Both Sides' Mediocrity Of Jon Stewart

Jon Stewart

Photo by Elizabeth Frantz/Reuters

Thank you, Mary Trump, for plumbing the shallow waters of Jon Stewart's wit. A psychologist and sharp critic of her uncle Donald, Mary Trump accused the Daily Show host of long suppressing the liberal vote by telling his fan base that the candidates stink equally. She cites political research showing that his what's-the-difference jabbering helped elect Donald Trump in 2016.

Keep reading...Show less
For Prisoners, Medicaid Waivers Permit Off-Site Care -- And Better Outcomes

Lidia Lech reached for a ramen noodle container because that’s all she had to contain the green-brown discharge coming out of her vagina.

Keep reading...Show less
{{ post.roar_specific_data.api_data.analytics }}