Conservationists Spend Over $7.16 Million To Get 20% Of The Vote


North Dakotans weren’t in the mood to say “yes” to most of the ballot measures tonight. Every single ballot measure lost, by wide margins, except for Measure 2 to ban taxes on real estate transfers.

But perhaps the most devastating of the losses, I’m downright giddy to report, was Measure 5. With nearly 94 percent of precincts reporting, just short of 80 percent of voters said “no” to diverting 5 percent of the state’s oil tax revenues to a conservation fund.

That’s shocking, given that the supporters of the measure spent at least $7.16 million on petitioning and then campaigning for the measure (counting all measure committee and independent expenditures dating back to their first failed effort to get on the ballot in 2012).

Just to put that into perspective, North Dakota’s U.S. House race between Kevin Cramer and George Sinner saw less than $2.5 million in funds raised by the two candidates combined.

To spend that much money, and get only 20 percent of the vote, makes me think there may be some people in the state’s conservation groups filling out their resumes.

In fact, I’d go so far as to say that the pro-Measure 5 groups have bungled this issue so badly that they may well have set back the cause of conservation in the state for at least a decade. What appetite are lawmakers going to have for shoveling money into conservation projects when voters shot down Measure 5 this way? How supportive are agriculture, energy, and business groups going to be of conservation causes after having to fight off this clusterfark of a measure?

Regional Ducks Unlimited boss Steve Adair, who chaired the measure committee behind Measure 5, is trying to sound optimistic saying their expensive campaign elevated the conversation.

“I think people are aware of many of the needs of state parks and habitat and water quality and that we need to have a bigger response to that,” he told the Fargo Forum. “We’re going to continue advocating. We’ll move into the legislative arena now.”

Good luck with that, Steve.