The Legality Of The North Dakota’s Outdoor Heritage Fund Should Be Challenged Immediately

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Reading outdoors reporter Brad Dokken’s column in the Grand Forks Herald today, you’d get the sense that certain legislators were trying to ban Ducks Unlimited and Pheastants Forever from participation in a newly-created conservation fund.

In fact, Dokken states that explicitly:

The bill Dalrymple signed laid out guidelines for the advisory board, but the House tried to stack the deck against conservation groups April 16 when Rep. Peter Silbernagel, R-Casselton, inserted language into SB 2242 — an unrelated bill about hunting licenses for disabled veterans that earlier passed the Senate — that would have prevented Pheasants Forever, DU and the North Dakota Natural Resources Trust from serving on the advisory board.

Silbernagel’s amendment only targeted the three conservation groups — and not farm organizations and energy groups that will have representatives on the board to advise the Industrial Commission on spending the Heritage Fund money. …

Silbernagel’s amendment to ban the three groups from the Heritage Fund board passed the House 94-0.

Dokken may want to get out a dictionary and look up the meaning of the word “ban,” because that’s not what Rep. Silbernagel’s amendment aimed to do. Rather, it would have removed specific mention of Ducks Unlimited and two other conservation groups from the legislation. Far from banning those groups, who would still be eligible to serve, when a previous iteration of the legislation named those groups to oversee the conservation fund it effectively banned every other conservation group from participating.

Unfortunately, the legislation that has emerged from conference committee maintains DU’s and Pheasants Forever’s explicitly-required involvement.

And therein lays the legal problem with this deeply flawed bit of policy. Forget the foolishness of creating a $30 million-per-biennium continuing appropriation for conservation whether the state needs that much spending on conservation or not, by naming some special interest groups – conservation, business, agriculture, etc. – to advisory positions for this board the law is, by definition, leaving other groups out in the cold. There are at-large memberships that other groups could fill, but that’s not the same as having a permanent position under the law.

Essentially the law gives some groups an advantage not afforded to other groups. That’s not only unfair, it undoubtedly violates constitutional requirements for equal protection under the law. You simply cannot create policy that explicitly gives certain special interest groups a seat at the table, but not others.

It would be nice to see this law challenged in court immediately, and struck down as illegal.


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. He writes a weekly column for several North Dakota newspapers, and also serves as a policy fellow for the North Dakota Policy Council.

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  • camsaure

    Damn RINOs.

  • whowon

    Between this and the the anti-smoking coalition my husband thinks we could start a group and get State money! How about “Free to be, me and you!” Has a nice ring to it, we could get lots of money too.

    • Lianne

      I’m in, so is my husband. Probably the only way for individual taxpayers to have a loud enough voice for the legislators to hear us.

      • ec99

        Years ago, my cardiologist told me NE ND and NW MN have some of the highest per capita incidents of coronary disease in the country. So maybe we can form NoDakers on Statins as an interest group and ask for a govt handout.

        • Lianne

          I do believe that is the ony way to get ‘tax refunds’.

  • tomorrowclear

    I see Sarah Palin stopped in to witness the signing of the bill.

    • Wild and Free

      That would be Jessica Unruh from district 33, she is From the Beulah area and works for Coteau Propreties Coal mine north of Beulah, she got the nod to fill the seat of Randy Christman when he got elected to the PSC. I used to work with her at coteau. So far I am not impressed with her votong record.

      • camsaure

        She needs to be primaried then. I hope it happens.

  • Matthew Hawkins

    This is not an equal protection problem.
    This is a problem with state government. However, there is no equal protection argument where they cannot choose their advisors. If you don’t like their advisors, vote them out.

    • Rob

      The groups are named specifically in that law. We can’t vote them out, and elected officials don’t get to choose.

      As usual, you have no idea what you’re taking about.

      • Anon

        Silly hack thinks he’s a lawyer again

        Having groups specifically named doesn’t create an equal protection where the board/commission/etc is not one of general concern, silly hack.. Such appointments are permissible so long as they are reasonably related to statutory objectives.

        There’s no argument that the board has general powers, being only advisory, and there’s likewise little argument that either of these groups have no rational relationship to the outdoors.

        Of course, why bother to look up the law when one could just make spurious, uncited claims like hack extraordinaire, maybe they won’t know I’m fat if I only post a head shot, Port.

        • goatse guest

          Why bother to post here when nobody cares what an insulting leftist runt of a self-hating POS thinks?

        • camsaure

          And little Matty doesn’t think he is a lawyer? He prtends to be one. Or is he just another one of your sock puppets? He seems just as smart, LOL

  • Scot

    Really, Rob? Sometimes you have it right, and in this case, you don’t. First, It wasn’t Rep. Pete Silbernagel who offered the amendment, it was Rep.Todd Porter. Second, the amendment didn’t pass the House 94-0, the bill did. The amendment was debated and passed on a divided vote. Sheesh.

    • Rob

      Well, I didn’t write that column. Mr. Dokken of the Grand Forks Herald did.

      Silbernagel carried the bill with the amendment to the floor, but you’re right he wasn’t the originator of it.

      I repeated Dokken’s inaccuracy about that point, and should have known better.

  • JoeMN

    The Minnesota legacy fund was sold under the pretext of “clean water”

    Don’t be surprised when greedy liberals hijack the fund as a grab bag for their pet causes.