Is The Northern Plains Heritage Foundation Breaking State Law?
The Northern Plains Heritage Foundation is a board put together by former Democrat state Senator Tracy Potter to manage the Northern Plains Heritage Area, a 4.6 million federal land designation that was crammed through Congress by former Democrat Senator Byron Dorgan without any notification for the landowners included in the designation.
Out of an abundance of concern for the property owners who found themselves stuck in this designation (originally they didn’t even have a way to opt out of it) the state legislature passed a law in the 2011 session which prohibited the use of state funds or state land in the designation.
Here’s the text of that law:
State funds may not be expended or transferred from state agencies or quasi-agency nonprofit entities to match federal moneys for the northern plains national heritage area without the approval of the legislative assembly. State lands, water, property, or facilities may not be included in the designated northern plains national heritage area without the approval of the legislative assembly. No further lands, water, property, or facilities may be designated as heritage areas within this state without the approval of the legislative assembly.
In November of last year the NPHF had to start their grant process over after the National Parks Service (which oversees these National Heritage Area arrangements) objected to grants being issued to groups associated with members of the board. For instance, Tracy Potter is the director of the Fort Abraham Lincoln Foundation, a group which got a grant from the NPHF. The Bismarck Tribune reported that the NPS was concerned over “too many conflicts of interest.”
Well apparently the NPHF has worked through their grant entanglements and issued a management plan for the land designation. You can read the whole thing below, but a few things jumped out at me.
First, it appears as though the same groups over which the NPS expressed concerned are still targeted for receiving federal tax dollars. Second, it looks as though several state entities have applied to the NPHF for grants including the Bismarck Parks and Recreation Department and the State Historical Society. According to the management plan, these entities are “offering to match federal funds.” Which would mean that these groups would match federal tax dollars funneled through the NPHF with state tax dollars.
That wouldn’t be in keeping with the aforementioned law.
What has always bothered me about this land designation is that the people with property in it must keep a weather eye toward whatever this foundation is doing. The NPHF has, potentially, millions of federal tax dollars with which to lobby local governments and entities for “partnerships” to manage land use and other issues in this area. Land owners wishing to oppose these moves must spend their own time and money to do so.
That’s not fair. Citizens have enough to do without having to fight off unelected boards of busybodies, and the federal government is broke and certainly doesn’t need to be funding such enterprises with rather nebulous public purposes.