North Dakota To Vote On Clean Water, Wildlife and Parks Amendment

Oil and gas development is booming in North Dakota, bringing in millions of dollars in tax revenues.  Proposed Ballot Measure 5 seeks to redirect 5% of the state’s share of oil extraction taxes towards clean water, wildlife and parks. 

The measure would add a new section to the North Dakota constitution creating both a Clean Water, Wildlife Parks Trust and a Fund.  Ten percent of the redirected money would go in the Clean Water, Wildlife, and Parks and Trust and ninety percent of the annual revenues would be deposited into the Clean Water, Wildlife, and Parks Fund.   The Fund would be used to make grants to the public and private groups to aid water quality, natural flood control, fish and wildlife habitat, parks and outdoor recreation areas, access for hunting and fishing, the acquisition of land for parks, and outdoor education for children.  The Fund would be governed by a board and commission.  A vote would be required every 25 years to consider whether to continue the financing. 

Supporters of the measure include a wide range of conservation groups who argue with the increased energy production, wildlife habitat is disappearing.   Howard Vincent, CEO of Pheasants Forever Inc., claims nearly “2 million acres of land has been converted from wildlife habitat to production.”   

Opponents to the measure argue the proposed measure lacks flexibility by requiring 75% of the Fund be spent every year.  Currently 5% of the current revenue generated from the oil extraction tax is $300 million per biennium –potentially too much money to spend responsibly in a short period of time opponents say. 

The battle for Measure 5 has been fierce with the campaign totaling over $6.5 million so far and according to an article the battle has been ugly.    Both supporters and opponents have have created a PACs and websites working to win over the electorate with full blown campaigns. A poll commissioned by Forum Communications Co. in late September shows the margin will be close, finding 44% planned to vote for the measure, 37% against, and 18% were undecided.