Al Geisen, Bismarck
The Clean Water, Wildlife and Parks Amendment would provide a host of benefits for the people of North Dakota. The potential beneficiaries are broad in scope and include farmers and ranchers, cities and counties, tribes and families. All would benefit from the programs that could be developed through the measure to establish parks or conservation initiatives. Local governments could apply for funding for a park or greenway to prevent flooding; tribes could set up a program to conserve their best habitat: the state of North Dakota and non-profits could work together to provide voluntary incentives to farmers and ranchers to maintain grass and wetlands on their land or provide access for hunters and anglers. The work performed by these entities will help North Dakotans by protecting our clean water, our lakes and streams, controlling flooding, providing wildlife habitat and developing additional recreation for our growing state.
This proposal will help support our smaller communities. A North Dakota state study shows over 300 million dollars are spent each year on outdoor activities in our state and 80 percent of this revenue goes to smaller cities through the purchase of gasoline, food and beverages and housing. This additional income would especially benefit small towns that may not be reaping the economic benefits of the oil boom.
A conservation cover program, tailored to North Dakota, could be developed that would pay producers current rental rates and provide more flexibility for haying and grazing. This would provide additional options when landowners are planning their farming and ranching operations. A cover program would help replace the loss of 2 million acres of CRP and the thousands of acres of native prairie North Dakota continues to lose each year. These losses have had a negative impact on many species of our wildlife.
The Clean Water, Wildlife and Parks Amendment is a reasonable investment of just five percent of the oil extraction tax while leaving the oil production tax untouched. This means that for every dollar the state receives in oil tax revenue, only three cents goes to fund this amendment. Some of the benefits would be realized today; however, what is also important is the lasting legacy of a better North Dakota we would provide for our children and grandchildren. Three cents on the dollar seems like a pretty good deal to me.