Greg Kessel: Conservation Measure Is Designed To Make Accountability Difficult


The Clean Water, Wildlife and Parks Amendment is little more than an attempt to give environmental nonprofit groups access to hundreds of millions of dollars for “conservation” projects with little oversight or accountability.

Supporters of the proposed amendment claim it would “protect” the conservation funding by locking it in our state constitution so legislators wouldn’t be able to alter the funding from one biennium to the next. What it really does is create a bloated conservation fund for nonprofit environmental groups without any accountability to the people of North Dakota.

The proposed amendment, which siphons off some $300 million of the state’s oil extraction tax per biennium, would be under the direction of a 13-member advisory board. Unfortunately, that board would be made up of people required to have a conservation background, except for one member each from the agriculture industry and the energy industry. Two votes out of 13 are not enough to have any influence over the types of projects the committee would fund, which seems to be the point.

The amendment, which has a 25-year life span, is designed to make it difficult for there to be any accountability about the conservation funding it provides. That’s 25 years – some $5 billion — of conservation spending without being held accountable.

The only way to keep the proposed amendment in check would be to bring it to another vote of the people, which would require developing a coalition, filing with the Secretary of State, and gathering enough signatures to get it on the ballot.

We all care about responsible stewardship of our natural resources. But asking people to support $5 billion in conservation spending without any accountability is just one of the many major problems with the Clean Water, Wildlife and Parks Amendment.

I urge you not to support the proposed amendment. Decline to sign the Clean Water, Wildlife and Parks Amendment petition.