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LETTER: Editorial misleads residents about CWWPA

While I wasn’t surprised by Howard Vincent’s recent editorial promoting the Clean Water, Wildlife and Parks Amendment, (Page A4, July 27) it’s curious that Vincent — who lives in St. Paul — feels entitled to tell North Dakotans what is “uniquely North Dakotan.” Apparently he knows our state better than we do.

I admit Vincent writes a compelling editorial bemoaning the “duckless skies” and “fields without pheasants,” but his argument would carry more weight if he included a few facts. For example, according to the North Dakota Game and Fish Department, the state’s duck population is currently 110 percent above the long-term average and up 23 percent from 2013. Pheasants are also up about six percent from last year.

He also claims that the proposed amendment won’t take away from other important needs in the state — but that simply isn’t true. North Dakota’s CWWPA would be funded by taking a percent of the oil and gas extraction tax, which currently flows into the state’s general fund. The money taken from the general fund would otherwise be used to fund state agencies and services, such as education and human services, or to fund property tax relief.

Vincent points out that Pheasants Forever, Ducks Unlimited and The Nature Conservancy aren’t truly out-of-state special interest groups because they have members and employees in North Dakota. That’s absolutely true, though he fails to mention that the money funding the CWWPA movement comes from Washington, D.C., and Virginia, as does the marketing firm running its campaign.

But the most interesting claim Vincent makes is that we should trust the conservation groups pushing the CWWPA because they have “been involved in North Dakota’s landscape for generations” and “know North Dakota’s natural resources are just too special to let slip away.” While these groups have been in our state for a few decades, that’s nothing compared to the tenure of North Dakota’s farmers and ranchers. And the agriculture community is our state’s greatest conservationists.

Nobody is more concerned with being responsible stewards of our state’s natural resources than North Dakota’s agriculture community. The thousands of farmers and ranchers working in the state understand that it is essential to balance agricultural production with conservation and wildlife concerns.

And yet, every ag organization in the state — including the North Dakota Ag Coalition which represents 35 different organizations — is formally opposed to the CWWPA. Why? Because the measure asks for too much money without a clear plan for spending. Supporters, Vincent included, claim it will be used to protect water and wildlife, but they never tell you how the funds will be used to accomplish those goals.

In reality, the CWWPA is all about the money. The out-of-state groups supporting the measure have millions of dollars to gain if it passes. That’s plenty of motivation to support a money grab, which is exactly what the CWWPA is.

North Dakotans know what makes our state special. We don’t need out-of-state groups to tell us. And we don’t want them reaping the benefits of our economy while undermining the agricultural foundation of our culture. That’s why I encourage all North Dakotans to reject the Clean Water, Wildlife and Parks Amendment.

Wogland is the Executive Director of the North Dakota Grain Growers Association