Taking care of the great outdoors. That's what the Governor aims to do with his picks to oversee millions.
A stash of cash up to $15 million annually -- and twelve hand-picked North Dakotans get to recommend how to spend it. All those dollars come courtesy of oil and gas taxes, earmarked for the North Dakota Outdoor Heritage Fund. "This is an historic opportunity to have a diverse group of people come together and set the policy for us in awarding grants for conservation and preservation of the outdoors in North Dakota," says Governor Jack Dalrymple (R-ND).
The fund was brought to life this year by the North Dakota Legislature over concerns about what's impacting wildlife and habitat in western North Dakota, as deer and pheasant populations are down. "Some of it's speculation. Some of it's literature. A large part of it is unknown at this point in time," says Terry Steinwand, Director of the North Dakota Game & Fish Department.
The question looming large is -- how big an impact is oil, really? "This oil play came on kind of fast and it's time that we start to take a look at those," says Senator Rich Wardner (R-Dickinson). "Oil is an easy finger to point at right now, because it's working fast and furiously, but it is much more than that. There's a lot of stressors on the landscape," says Terry Steinwand, ND Game & Fish Department.
So is $15 million enough to tackle such big issues? Some conservation advocates say "no." Backers of the proposed Clean Water, Wildlife and Parks Fund say five percent -- or as much as $75 million a year -- of North Dakota's oil extraction tax revenue should be set aside. They've put forth a proposal, approved by the Secretary of State, and have until August 29th, at the latest, to gather 26,904 signatures in order to get the measure on the November 2014 ballot.
However, Governor Dalrymple says current funding is more than the entire budget of the Agriculture Department. "If this program goes as well as I think it's going to go, I think we'll have a lot of popular support and I think that the legislature will probably want to give it still more support in the next session."
"But we're North Dakotans and we take things one step at a time," notes Senator Rich Wardner (R-Dickinson), a co-sponsor of the bill. The original legislation, House Bill 1278, was authored by Representative Todd Porter (R-Mandan).
The newly appointed Advisory Board consists of agriculture, energy, conservation, business and recreation officials. The 12 voting Board members are as follows: Governor names 12 member board for North Dakota Outdoor Heritage Fund: Eric Aasmundstad, Devils Lake (North Dakota Farm Bureau); Robert Kuylen, South Heart (North Dakota Farmers Union); Wade Moser, Bismarck (North Dakota Stockmen's Association); Dan Wogsland, Bismarck (North Dakota Grain Growers Association); Blaine Hoffman, Gladstone (North Dakota Petroleum Council); Jim Melchior, Bismarck (Lignite Energy Council); Dr. Tom Hutchens, Bismarck (Ducks Unlimited); Patricia Stockdill, Garrison (Pheasants Forever); Jon Godfread, Bismarck (Greater North Dakota Chamber); Randy Bina, Bismarck (North Dakota Recreation and Parks Association); Dr. Carolyn Godfread, Bismarck (conservation at-large); and Kent Reierson, Williston (conservation at-large). The four ex-officio members are Terry Steinwand (North Dakota Game & Fish Department); Mark Zimmerman (North Dakota Department of Parks & Recreation); Larry Kotchman (State Forester); and Ronda Vetsch (North Dakota Association of Soil Conservation Districts.
For more information on the appointments, visit governor.nd.gov.
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