Ducks Unlimited has gotten behind Measure 5 – which would diver hundreds of millions in oil tax revenues every biennium to a conservation fund – in a big, big way. Their regional director, Steve Adair, is also the chairman of the coalition group backing the measure called North Dakotans for Clean Water, Wildlife and Parks. The group has also made more than half a million dollars in direct political expenditures in North Dakota this year, presumably on supporting Measure 5.
But that high-profile backing of a contentious measure may have some fallout for the group’s other activities. I have had many people tell me that they will no longer support Ducks Unlimited at its popular banquets (a decision I made for myself last year), and now the North Dakota Grain Growers Association (part of the opposition to the measure) is calling on the USDA to end their relationship with DU.
“[T]he NDGGA strongly disapproves of the United States Government, through the National Resources Conservation Service, using Ducks Unlimited personnel as foot soldiers for its work due to their bias toward their own agenda, oftentimes at the hands of the North Dakota farmers that helped build this great state into the economic powerhouse it is today,” a press release from the group reads (see it all below). “The NDGGA feels that the people of North Dakota deserve unbiased people working for the federal government, workers that will represent everyone’s interest and not just the political ones of the people that deposit their paycheck, especially at the expense of the local agricultural community.”
The feds have a long-time relationship with Ducks Unlimited wherein the feds give DU money, and DU uses it on conservation projects. Which is all well and good until Ducks Unlimited gets a political agenda and begins using its clout and money to influence election outcomes.
This isn’t the only place where the feds and the conservation activists have an unseemly relationship.
Back in 2011 North Dakota U.S. Attorney Tim Purdon (appointed to his job by President Obama directly from the Democrat National Committee) attempted to prosecute a group of oil companies over a couple of dozen dead ducks under the Migratory Birds Treaty Act.
If Purdon had been successful (he wasn’t), the fines paid by those companies wouldn’t have gone to the federal government. They’d have gone to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, which is a private non-profit corporation.
Here’s another example: In North Dakota guns and other property seized from poachers gets auctioned off. The beneficiary of the auction? The North Dakota Wildlife Foundation, one of the sponsors of Measure 5. In fact, at a recent auction, petitions for Measure 5 were circulated to attendees (to the chagrin of state officials).
Whatever the outcome of Measure 5, it’s pretty clear that we need to have a debate over the relationships between these private sector groups and the government. Conservation advocacy is all well and good – even noble, when done with respect for property rights – but no private advocacy group should get most favored status from the government regardless of their position on a given issue.