NDFB opposes using oil tax revenue for conservation

Created: 2/06/12 (Mon) | Topic:

North Dakota Farm Bureau has taken action to oppose a proposed constitutional ballot measure to create a special fund for wildlife and conservation programs. The action was taken by the NDFB Board of Directors during its recent meeting in Fargo.

“Environmental groups want an unrealistic share of the state’s oil revenues each year,” said Doyle Johannes, NDFB president.
Funding would be derived from five percent of all oil and gas gross production taxes and oil extraction taxes collected by the state. According to a memorandum prepared by the North Dakota Legislative Council, the fund would generate $175 million each biennium, or $87.5 million per year.
“A significant number of these dollars could be dedicated to acquiring wetland and grassland conservation easements,” explained Johannes. “While farmers and ranchers support voluntary land conservation practices, NDFB policy opposes these types of long-term easements. They are detrimental to future landowners.
Johannes said a great deal of money is already spent by the federal government and nonprofit wildlife organizations to acquire easements in North Dakota. “Additional money spent on wildlife habitat is simply unnecessary.”
The fund would be used to create wildlife and fish habitat on private and public lands, as well as establishadditional parks and other recreation areas.
“If the money can be used to purchase land for parks and recreation areas, the state agency and/or political subdivision would have to maintain them,” said Johannes. “How much land should the government own? And how much more taxpayer money should be spent to maintain it?”
Grants could also be made to restore and protect rivers, streams, lakes and groundwater.
“Wildlife and recreation should not take precedence over agricultural production. Many of these conservation programs limit the ability of farmers and ranchers to manage the adjacent land. Wildlife, recreation and agriculture can all co-exist with sound land management.”
The constitutional amendment would establish a water, lands and outdoor heritage fund and create a nine-member governing board.
Grants could be made available to state agencies, tribal governments, local governments, political subdivisions and nonprofit organizations.
If this measure were to pass, a $175 million reduction would have to come from the property tax relief fund, state disaster relief fund, the strategic investment and improvements fund (most of which has been for roads and western North Dakota infrastructure) or the general fund. 
Audio: NDFB Newsline is a new 1:30 weekly audio feature in an mp3 format that highlights current issues of importance to agriculture from a Farm Bureau perspective. This week’s audio features NDFB President Doyle Johannes talking about the proposed constitutional wildlife fund ballot measure
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