Conservation Fund Is Dalrymple’s Worst Idea To Date


Earlier this year an initiated measure to create a conservation fund, overseen by a committee of government appointees and funded by tens of millions of dollars in oil tax revenues, was derailed by petition fraud perpetrated by, among others, roughly a dozen NDSU football players.

Governor Dalrymple rescued the idea in his executive budget, though his iteration capped proceeds for the fund and would put it under the oversight of the State Industrial Commission. Those are improvements, but this committee would still be able to appropriate millions of dollars to non-profit groups some of whom have very specific political agendas.

This is a terrible idea. Perhaps Dalrymple’s worst as governor, and that’s saying something given his support for enshrining the state’s heretofore property tax shift into state policy permanently.

What’s wrong with it? It’s not the idea of conservation in and of itself. I make no secret of my suspicions about those who would project their preferences for land use and protection onto those who, you know, actually own the land.

But this isn’t a debate over conservation. This is a debate over how we should be governed.

We have an army of elected leaders in this state – city councils, county commissions, township boards, soil conservation districts, state legislators, statewide officials, etc. – who make governing decisions. They can study conservation issues. They can make grants and appropriate funds. They use their policies to protect land or open it up to development.

What we don’t need is to layer on another level of bureaucracy. What we don’t need is another layer of bureaucracy empowered to pursue a specific political end, and make grants to non-profit groups who push for a political agenda in the private sector.

This conservation board couldn’t do anything that our elected leaders couldn’t already do. What this board could do is spend large sums of tax dollars, and influence policy, while not being accountable to the voters.

That’s a bad idea and should be shot down by the legislature.

Rob Port is the editor of In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters.

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  • tom


  • kevindf

    They are nothing but political slush funds.

    • Rob

      That’s right, just like the anti-tobacco board. It’s a bunch of unelected bureaucrats spending state revenues on their political agenda, banning tobacco.

  • Paul Sorum

    If any organization uses tax dollars for political purposes, it is a violation of North Dakota’s corrupt practices laws. And this is exactly what Dalrymple is intending with this proposal. It is also a violation of the federal Hatch Act. But this type of corruption coming from this administration is no surprise.

    • Rob

      You’re wrong in this instance, Paul. A grant to a non-profit isn’t a “political purpose” as defined by the law.

      Up until a couple of sessions ago, “political purposes” were supporting or opposing any candidate or political party. That definition was changed recently to include supporting or opposing an initiated measure.

      And this would have absolutely nothing at all to do with the Hatch Act as a) that’s federal policy and b) we’re talking about state funds.

  • jimmypop

    horrid idea… members of this board get paid? if so how much?

    • Rob

      I haven’t seen the legislation that would implement this yet, but I assume they would be compensated? Though some members would be government officials, so would it be considered a part of their job?

  • noblindersonme

    No Port it iS a debate about conservation , at least in your twisted mind.

    Please answer a direct question . Whenever this isssue comes up- you belly up , and I use that phrase purposely, with all the energy and meager ability you have , to frame your argument against ANY conservation or environmental protection! all the while offering phony claims that “of course “WE” all want good stewardship and a clean world ” blah blah,,,,

    WHEN ? When do you actually just take a sensible view of any conservation issue, your archive will confirm that you never do so , , your opinion pieces are heavy laden with anti conservation views while any positives concerning the great need to keep our country and our lands healthy and fruitful are rare , if not as extinct as the proverbial dodo bird.

    It is one thing to be critical of this issue if you have been a lifelong worker or protector of our environment ( Like Teddy Roosevelt) and then don’t like an action that infringes on the achievements you worked hard for.

    and it is a totally other thing to bitch about this issue when all you have ever done is sat and bitched on the sidelines (like Rush Limbaugh- my opinion on endangered species -screw em if they can’t adapt to us! He actually said that!!) and only take an interest because any action just infringes on your sedate and selfish needs.
    You of course will be thin skinned and will be angered that I have the nerve to point out these truisms to you, but you did justify your rant by yammering that this action would endanger the rights of “those who actually work and OWN the land!”..
    tell me – do YOU know what that is like ? How muuch of the LAND have YOU owned and worked ? I have been working MY LAND FOR OVER 50 YEARS . YOU don’t speak for me . I know what the pros and cons of conservation laws are, so do my neighbors, We don’t need a desk bound whiner grabbing the megaphone and preening that he somehow speaks for US! You speak for a select few and they congregate in places like this. If you want to prove how much better your view is , then you are welcome anytime to come out HERE on my land and tell me how stupid I am! That is if you can drop your twinkie and keep up with how this cowboy rides the range I love.

    • Rob

      I’m all for protecting the land.

      What I’m not for is roadblocking land use because a few deer and pheasant hunters don’t like it.

    • DelawareBeachHouse

      If you’re attempting to persuade people, abusive rhetoric is probably not the right approach.

  • Harlan Goerger

    Doesn’t the DNR have enough power! One of the issues in getting things accomplished in government is too many agencies with their fingers in the same issue. One contradicts the other, all take the funds and get nothing done. I know Jack is a moderate and tends to like government to fix it all, but please no more agencies. Instead lets cut out a few that have no real purpose anymore. Definition of immortality= Government Agency

  • DelawareBeachHouse

    Terrible idea. Thanks for bringing it to our attention. I imagine it dies quickly in the Legislature, which will seek to maintain its spending authority and rightly so.

    • Rob

      I think the gov I’d felony like he needs to do something to get the greenies off hid back, but this is the wrong something.