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When it comes to North Dakota's conservation interests, you might not think the VP of human resources for Honda of America Manufacturing has much to say.

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You should think again, at least if you're Gov. Jack Dalrymple and want to head off the Clean Water, Wildlife and Parks Amendment.

During his time at Honda, "we kept our organization -- and our suppliers -- union-free (even through multiple organizing campaigns) by actually using union strategies and promises as ways to improve our own operations," writes Tim Garrett, the former executive.

"For instance, the most important thing we did -- repeatedly -- was to ask ourselves, 'What can the unions do for our people that we're not already doing?'

"We would force ourselves to override the kneejerk answer: 'Well, nothing.' And then we'd search for ways we could improve our people's work experience."

In North Dakota over the next year, Dalrymple should imitate Honda's approach by asking the question this way:

What can the conservation amendment do for North Dakota that we're not already doing?

Then he should seek to improve residents' conservation experience.

Obviously, the governor already knows about this strategy. His Outdoor Heritage Fund is a clear effort to beat conservationists at their own game.

But the huge oil spill near Tioga, N.D., suggests that North Dakota's new-and-improved conservation ethic needs work. So does the fact that the Outdoor Heritage Fund is weak in two areas:

First, it sets aside too little money to do the job. There's no way $30 million over two years can make up for the loss of 2 million Conservation Reserve Program acres, to take just one of the conservationists' concerns.

Second, the fund forbids the purchase of land.

Those weaknesses mean western North Dakota's wildlife and scenery can't count on the fund offering much protection against rapid industrialization.

On U.S. Highway 2 just outside of Grand Forks, murals of prairie bison and other natural scenes used to block motorists' view of a salvage yard. Will that be the Outdoor Heritage Fund's role?

To convince North Dakotans that they don't need the conservation amendment, Dalrymple must make sure that the fund -- and his entire administration -- do a whole lot more.

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