Growing up a fifth generation North Dakotan in rural Benson County, I was blessed to inherit the state’s vast outdoors where agriculture and conservation worked collectively for the betterment of the state. I, like many of you, was raised on a landscape abundant in natural beauty with clean water, numerous wetlands, wildlife habitat, and native prairies. The outdoor heritage I refer to has a humbling effect on us as a people and is highly valued in our state’s quality of life.
This heritage and this quality of life are being challenged in the unprecedented growth and development across the state. Let me be clear, we should all rejoice in the opportunities created by this development but never should we shy away from the challenges that arise with it. It is time we rise to the occasion before us in preserving the outdoors we grew to love. We cannot blindly accept the good fortune without addressing the threat of a depleting landscape that accompanies it.
We cannot merely predicate our success on the amount of reserves we have in the bank, rather our success will be determined by future generations in the North Dakota heritage we protect and pass forward. That is the purpose of SCR 4027 which will go to a vote of the people if adopted by the legislature. It should be the people of this state who determine our landscape, not one industry and not one political party.
Though I appreciate the Governor included an aspect of conservation in his budget proposal, it falls far short. First, he would have the Industrial Commission be in control of these efforts. How can we entrust true conservation to the same commission that recently approved controversial drilling on a historical site in the Killdeer Mountains? I declare we cannot and it would be misguided to think otherwise. Second, is the lack of adequate funding to meet the demand of honest outdoor conservation. If we are to take conservation seriously we must take a serious approach, one with a commission knowledgeable of the subject and independent from conflicts of interest with an adequate funding level to meet the economic reality of the time.
Let me clear up the misrepresentation being portrayed about SCR 4027. Yes there is the option of land purchase and public access. However, access and acquisition are voluntary and determined by the land owner. In essence SCR 4027 upholds property rights as the property owner will have additional options and means for revenue on the land they own.
The process for acquisition of land is currently written into state law. The interest groups opposed to this aspect, in fact, have a say in approving or denying any request.
As I campaigned, I made a commitment to my fellow North Dakotans I would do all I could to ensure the North Dakota I inherited was there for our children. SCR 4027 is a result of that commitment and I’m asking you to join in those efforts and contact your Senator to ask for their support.
In times of drastic change it is appropriate to look into the past to gain direction for the future. In this moment, let us follow the words of former North Dakota Governor Art Link, “let those who follow and repopulate the land be able to say, our grandparents did their job well. The land is as good and, in some cases, better than before. Only if they can say this will we be worthy of the rich heritage of our land and its resources.”