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Greater North Dakota Chamber explains

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Why is the business community lining up against the Clean Water, Wildlife, and Parks Constitutional Amendment?

The Greater North Dakota Chamber is opposed to the Clean Water, Wildlife and Parks (CWWPA) Constitutional Measure.  At first glance, you may wonder why, considering there’s potentially billions of dollars in hunting and fishing revenue at stake. While the business community supports conservation, hunting, and protecting what makes North Dakota “North Dakota”, this measure isn’t about that. It’s about the money, and much of what you may see from the supporters of this measure is misleading – if not downright false.

To begin with, supporters assume that without CWWPA funding, our state’s great outdoor resources will diminish and eventually disappear. They fail to mention, however, that North Dakota currently spends almost $70 million per year on conservation and related efforts; not to mention the more than $300 million that is directed at conservation, in local spending and federal programs. For those keeping track, it adds up to over $370 million allocated for conservation projects in North Dakota every year.

Supporters also often mention the decline of the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) and suggest that CWWPA funding could be used to bolster it; they rightly point out that farmers and ranchers are the state’s greatest conservationists.

Of course, they fail to mention that virtually every agriculture-related group in the state are members of North Dakotans for Common Sense Conservation, the coalition opposing the CWWPA.

If farmers and ranchers would benefit from enhanced CRP payments through CWWPA funding, why do they firmly oppose it? Because the out-of-state groups funding the amendment have a history of being hostile to the ag industry, and there’s no way to make sure the money will be spent how CWWPA supporters claim it will be spent. We believe that when North Dakota’s farmers and ranchers — the backbone of our state’s agricultural heritage — take a stand against something, it’s important to take notice.

While the advocates for this measure promote it as “hunting friendly”, the track records of Ducks Unlimited and the Nature Conservancy — which donated $237,000 to this campaign – tell a different story.  Both organizations restrict hunting and fishing on their acquired lands in other states. In fact, the Nature Conservancy bans hunting on all of their lands.

Instead of giving money to outside groups that restrict access to “their” land, why not support increased funding to the PLOTS program through the legislature?  This ensures local control of our resources and provides a fair opportunity for everyone to have access.

Supporters often quote an unnamed “reliable source” that told them visitation to TR National Park is down because it’s so dangerous, and suggests a polluted landscape of oil spills. My “reliable source” called the National Park Service’s Monthly Public Use Report for June 2014. They report visitation in the park is actually up by 26 percent over the same time last year.

But, for the sake of argument, let’s pretend for a moment that our other criticisms of the CWWPA don’t exist. Let’s pretend that the amendment isn’t being funded by out-of-state special-interest groups. Let’s pretend that the CWWPA is going to do all the great things the supporters say it will (even though they, like the amendment itself, are skimpy on the details of exactly how that’ll happen). Let’s pretend the CWWPA is the “golden ticket” its supporters claim it to be…

The Greater North Dakota Chamber and North Dakotans for Common Sense Conservation would still oppose the amendment.

Why? Because enshrining any special-interest spending in the state constitution is bad policy, regardless of the issue. It says that your issue is more important than any other funding priority in the state — education, infrastructure, health, human services, law enforcement, etc.

The coalition of organizations, including the Greater North Dakota Chamber, opposing this proposed measure believe it is essential to have a balanced approach to funding for all the state’s needs.  From conservation and education to infrastructure and public safety, utilizing our vast resources to benefit all North Dakotan’s is essential in this time of dynamic change.

That’s why we don’t support the CWWPA. And neither should North Dakotans.