North Dakota Hunter Safety Instructors Pushed Conservation Measure To Students

I’ve written previously about the use of an auction of items seized by law enforcement from poachers to push the controversial Clean Water, Wildlife and Parks amendment. The North Dakota Wildlife Federation, which is a sponsor of the petition that, if passed, would divert hundreds of millions into conservation programs every biennium, used the state-sanctioned event to push the amendment to attendees.

A North Dakota Game & Fish official called the incident “unfortunate.”

Now comes news of another unfortunate incident which involved a couple of state hunter safety course instructors pushing the measure on students. I wrote about it over at Watchdog.org:

Bismarck resident T.J. Hermann says he was subjected to criticism and propaganda about the measure while taking a hunter safety course.

“After taking the course, I was left with an extremely bad taste in my mouth,” Hermann said of his experience, which occurred in August 2013. “At the first class they brought up the Clean Air/Clean Water petition that is going around collecting signatures and encouraged the class to sign it, stating it was a ‘vital wildlife conservation’ petition and not telling the class what it really is and does.”

He said that when the instructors learned that he works in the oil industry, he was criticized.

“He demonized me, my business and gave the class the impression that I’m ruining hunting and fishing in (North Dakota) because of what I do,” Hermann said referring to one of the two volunteer instructors.

Hermann said that on the last night of the two-day course, the instructors brought a petition to class and asked students to sign it after turning in their final exam.

Game & Fish Director Terry Steinwand said he took immediate action to correct the issue:

“We were informed in September, 2013 that two Hunter Education volunteer instructors advocated on behalf of the petition and encouraged class participants to sign it,” North Dakota Game andFish Director Terry Steinwand said in response to a Watchdog.org inquiry.

Steinwand said he responded to the complaint, ordering a subordinate to inform the volunteer instructors not to engage in political advocacy while working for the state.

“I promptly notified the division chief under which Hunter Education is administered and informed him that this type of solicitation/activity cannot occur with employees or volunteers when they’re representing the North Dakota Game and Fish Department,” Steinwand said.  “The division chief personally contacted the lead instructors involved in the activity on approximately September 20 and informed them that such activity was considered improper and a Hunter Education course is considered a state function.”

Aside from the complaint filed with his department regarding the Report All Poachers auction, Steinwand said this is the only problem reported to him regarding advocacy for the conservation petition.

The signature collection efforts in support of this amendment have left much to be desired. In the 2012 election cycle the amendment as kept off the ballot after the Secretary of State found tens of thousands of forged signatures on petitions turned in by the group. In this cycle the petition backers promised they wouldn’t used paid petitioners again (most of those guilty of the 2012 fraud were NDSU football players being paid to collect signatures), but they broke that promise.

Every election cycle North Dakota sees several initiated measures presented to voters for their signature and, if enough signatures are collected, their votes. Most of those petitioners follow the rules. But that seems to be a problem for the supporters of the Clean Water, Wildlife and Parks amendment.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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