Use grants to add to outdoor fundHere’s a twist: If the Outdoor Heritage Fund as passed by the North Dakota House becomes law, the meetings of its advisory board might be right up there with University of North Dakota hockey as one of North Dakota’s favorite spectator sports.
By: Grand Forks Herald, The Jamestown Sun
Here’s a twist: If the Outdoor Heritage Fund as passed by the North Dakota House becomes law, the meetings of its advisory board might be right up there with University of North Dakota hockey as one of North Dakota’s favorite spectator sports.
That’s because the board would feature conservationist Hatfields and property-rights McCoys, all debating around the same table and making decisions. The 12-member board will include representatives from Ducks Unlimited, Pheasants Forever and two more environmental groups as well as the Stockmen’s Association, the Lignite Council, the Petroleum Council, the Farm Bureau and the Greater North Dakota Chamber, among others.
Of course, people have a way of rising to the occasion, and the members of these groups are no exception. There’s every chance the meetings would be not only civil but also an opportunity for the rival organizations to come to understand each other.
And that would another in a series of good things to come out of the fund, which would give the committee up to $15 million a year to spend on conservation projects.
Congratulations to the House for approving the fund. Here’s hoping the Senate also says yes — and adopts a matching-grant plan to extend the fund’s reach.
The fund is a response to the tremendous pressure oil development is putting on the state’s wild, scenic and sensitive land. North Dakota has to step up its conservation efforts, or the outdoor heritage that generations have loved will be diminished if not destroyed.
As passed by the House, the fund would get $30 million per biennium in oil and gas tax revenue. The good news is that’s a great start. The bad news is that it’s only a start: Fifteen million dollars a year is only enough to protect about 27,000 acres or 36 square miles. But North Dakota has lost close to 1.5 million acres of federal Conservation Reserve Program land just since 2007, so you see what hunters, hikers, anglers and other conservationists are up against.
But wait. There’s a way to tap North Dakotans’ pent-up desire to spend their own money protecting land.
Under this idea, the state would use the $15 million annual allocation as a floor, then promise a state match of some kind for any money raised privately.
That way, donors would know that their money would be not only going a long way but also being put to good conservation use.
Right now in North Dakota, those things are hard to guarantee. State law restricts the Nature Conservancy and similar nonprofits from buying land. But matching grants tied to the Outdoor Heritage Fund would get around that restriction. This would enable the nonprofits as well as conservation-minded residents to donate. Philanthropic oil millionaires would find an outlet for their money, too. Many of them are looking for good ways to “give back” to the state.
North Dakota’s landscape is a beloved feature of the state. An Outdoor Heritage Fund can help protect it — and if the fund incorporates a matching-grant plan, the available resources might just be enough.