Today Governor Jack Dalrymple announced a proposed expansion North Dakota’s existing conservation fund, the Outdoor Heritage Fund. It was a move no doubt intended to defuse some of the angst over conservation in the state ahead of a vote on Measure 5 which diverts a massive amount of oil tax revenues into a conservation fund that, in turn, has a 75 percent yearly spending mandate.
Dalrymple wants to take the Outdoor Heritage Fund from $30 million to $50 million. He also wants $30.4 million on improvements to state parks.
His full proposal is here.
“The governor’s plan calls for investing $30.4 million in new funds to expand and improve state park amenities and increase public access to North Dakota’s great outdoors,” it reads. “Dalrymple also proposes increasing the North Dakota Outdoor Heritage Fund to $50 million, bringing the state’s total commitment to new conservation and outdoor recreation projects to $80.4 million during the 2015-2017 biennium.”
I didn’t like the idea of the Outdoor Heritage Fund to begin with. I don’t like the idea of continuing appropriations. Locking away a set amount of money to something like conservation every biennium is a recipe for inventing ways to spend the taxpayers money well in excess of actual needs.
Mabye this is a necessary evil to keep voters from doing something even dumber at the ballot box with Measure 5. I have no doubt that’s Dalrymple’s intent, and I’m certain that was the intent when the Legislature created the existing $30 million/biennium Outdoor Heritage Fund last year. But rather than doing something less-bad to keep from doing something really bad, it would be nice if Dalrymple and others showed a little leadership and explained why this sort of continuing appropriation policy is foolhardy to begin with.