I originally published this post in September of 2013, well in advance of what has become a nasty statewide ballot over Measure 5. Over the weekend I noticed the post getting thousands of new page views. Given the renewed interest, I thought I’d post it again on the front page. You can read Ducks Unlimited regional director Steve Adair’s response from September 2013 here.
Since moving to North Dakota my family and I got into the habit of attending some of the local Ducks Unlimited banquets. These have always been fun events. Gatherings with like-minded hunters with good food and fun auctions.
My father and I, along with some other family members, were regulars at a Minot-area banquet until a few years ago. Now I find myself wondering if I should have been supporting a group like Ducks Unlimited.
I had always thought that, by supporting DU, I was supporting the sport of hunting. I hunted a lot when I was younger, both in Alaska and in North Dakota. It’s a part of my heritage, and it’s something I very much want to see preserved.
Ducks Unlimited, I thought, was doing a good job of this. And maybe, in some areas, they still are, but of late their advocacy has been tinted by greed and a desire to block use of land for anything but hunting.
The group is one of the primary proponents of two ballot measures – one derailed by signature fraud in the last election cycle, another for which signatures are being collected now – to create a massive endowment of state tax dollars dedicated to conservation, and a mandate to spend those dollars whether there is need for conservation or not (more specifics here).
This is a much more expensive, much less accountable version of an outdoor heritage fund the legislature has already created.
Ducks Unlimited is, of course, free to pursue whatever course of conservation activism they wish, but their activism shouldn’t be embedded in the state government. It shouldn’t be funded with state tax dollars.
And let’s not forget that the outdoor heritage fund Ducks Unlimited wants created is one that allows grants to non-profit organizations. Like, uh, Ducks Unlimited. Not to mention more radical environmental groups like the Dakota Resource Council which recently sued in federal court asking to have North Dakota’s right to regulate surface mining removed.
The DRC, which had partnered with the Sierra Club, lost that bid but it wouldn’t be hard to see them using our tax dollars for future legal maneuvering.
Again, this isn’t the sort of activism that should be funded by our tax dollars. Some might argue that the fund to be created would be prohibited from funding political activism, but I’d point out that groups like the Dakota Resource Council are already almost entirely funded by federal tax dollars, and yet somehow manage to be very politically active.
This fall, as Ducks Unlimited chapters hold their banquets and as I see photos and reports from those banquets on social media, I want to say that I’m ashamed I ever supported this group that wants to create for itself a taxpayer entitlement. I’m chagrined that I mistook DU’s self-serving rent seeking for good-faith advocacy in defense of hunting. I’m upset that I didn’t realize what a threat groups like DU are to non-hunting types of land use, like energy production and farming/ranching.
I won’t be making that mistake again in the future.