Yesterday Governor Jack Dalrymple, looking to slow momentum behind a Measure 5 on the November ballot, proposed an expansion of the state’s existing conservation fund – the Outdoor Heritage Fund – as well as more than $30 million in new appropriations to expand state parks.
Dalrymlpe’s proposal would expand the Outdoor Heritage Fund from a maximum of $30 million per biennium to $50 million. Measure 5, if passed, would divert 5 percent of oil tax revenues to a conservation fund – as much as $300 million next biennium – with a mandate to spend 75 percent of it every year.
According to Dalrymple, he would have proposed these moves even if Measure 5 weren’t on the ballot. “I think I would have, and no one will ever know whether that’s true or not,” Dalrymple told Fargo Forum reporter Mike Nowtazki.
But at least one leader in the state’s agriculture industry doesn’t like what he sees. Wes Klein is a member of the Board of Directors of the North Dakota Farm Bureau. The North Dakota Farm Bureau is one of the many agriculture, energy, and business groups opposed to Measure 5. Klein apparently take exception to Dalrymple’s maneuvering.
He has started a tongue-in-cheek online petition at Change.org asking Dalrymple to hand over his family’s farm property for a new state park. From the description of the petition:
The Back Jack campaign is an effort to see the Newest State Park in North Dakota come into being. The Jack Dalrymple and Dalrymple Farms State Park. We all know Jack is a leader and is the first to lead the way. With today’s announcement of another 20 million for Parks and Rec. in North Dakota what better way to spend the tax dollars than spend them in honor of the Great Leader we have in Jack the Gov. and a new State Park, The Jack Dalrymple and Dalrymple Farms State Park.
What will it take you ask, a mere 10,000 acres and the Farmstead. (We will need a place for people to park and camp.) With an additional 20 million or so we will have a Place of Extraordinary Significance, A Special Place, where the Residence of Fargo, Moorhead, Grand Forks, and surrounding metro areas can come and experience the great outdoors without the hassle of driving hundreds of miles to get there.
Cutting through the sarcasm, it’s clear Klein is worried about these additional conservation dollars being used to take private land.
As of the time of this posting there were only two people who have signed the petition.
To be fair to Dalrymple, his proposal doesn’t call for any taking of private land. The specifics in his press release – which you can read here – mostly call for improvements and expansions at existing state parks. It also calls for the creation of a new state park with 200 acres of state-owned land south of the Missouri River Correctional Facility near Bismarck, but obviously that’s not privately-owned land either.
But Klein’s concerns may stem from a larger suspicion of any sort of a continuing appropriation to conservation. There is a deep and profound dislike in the agriculture and energy industry for any flow of public dollars to groups promoting conservation. Although the ability of conservation groups to buy up land in North Dakota is limited, it’s worth remembering that money is fungible. Groups might not use state dollars to buy up land directly, but the could certainly use funds freed up from other areas of their budgets by state dollars to buy or otherwise encumber land.
The agriculture industry sees that as a threat. Something that will drive up land prices. And it’s hard to argue with their logic.