BISMARCK - While the election may be over, the recent spirited debated over Measure 5 was just one chapter in an important statewide dialogue about how we as a state maintain our outdoor heritage.
As North Dakotans who live and work here every day, we must ensure future generations have the same opportunities for hunting, fishing and other outdoor recreation that we have all enjoyed. We’re fortunate to be living in a unique time in North Dakota, and we need to ask ourselves: What is our legacy, and how do we invest in our future?
The election results showed us all that North Dakota voters are not ready to take the bold step of amending our constitution to direct 5 percent of existing oil and gas extraction revenue to fund community conservation projects across the state.
We care about conservation but want some alternative routes to get us there. During the Clean Water, Wildlife and Parks campaign, we heard from farmers, ranchers, hunters and anglers, teachers, business owners, doctors and local, county and state elected officials that North Dakota is at a conservation crossroads.
Following the election, our coalition conducted a poll to ask North Dakotans why they voted the way they did on Measure 5. We found that a solid majority - 61 percent - think the state needs to do more to protect the state’s land, water and wildlife.
Our state needs improved habitat for dwindling deer and pheasant populations, we haven’t established a new state park in 30 years, and we need to make sure our water remains clean for our families, livestock and fisheries. These pressing problems will not simply go away if left unattended. Now is not the time to be short-sighted.
The Clean Water, Wildlife and Parks initiative elevated the outdoor dialogue to an unprecedented level. Many of us are thinking about how to address the needs of our growing state, and how conservation, energy, agriculture and outdoor recreation should complement each other.
North Dakota leaders already have responded to the state’s increasing outdoor needs and growing pressures on our unique landscape with legislative proposals for programs to supplement the federal Conservation Reserve Program.
Gov. Jack Dalrymple also has pledged to include in his budget for the next biennium $80 million more for parks and conservation funding. These are significant steps toward improving our state’s critical quality of life infrastructure.
We look forward to working with the governor and North Dakota Legislature to make these both a reality.
North Dakotans understand that conservation is critical to our economy. Our land and water is North Dakota’s golden egg. It formed the oil and gas we are extracting today. It also will sustain us in the future.
We need to make sure we invest the time and resources to keep North Dakota’s landscapes healthy. We will persevere and continue working for North Dakota’s clean water, wildlife and parks for now and future generations. We hope others will join with us to seek solutions.
North Dakota’s outdoors are too important to let one election stand in the way of progress.
Thank you to everyone who supported us - the hundreds of volunteers and endorsers, the 41,000 citizens who signed petitions to put Measure 5 on the ballot and the voters who supported North Dakota’s clean water, wildlife and parks by voting “Yes” on 5.
You’ve been involved in a very important conservation conversation. Now let’s continue to work together to find the right path to maintaining North Dakota’s great outdoor traditions.
Adair, Great Plains Region director for Ducks Unlimited, is chairman of North Dakotans for Clean Water, Wildlife and Parks.