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Richard Monson, Valley City, N.D., Published March 23 2013

Letter: Make bold investment in heritage

North Dakotans have been eagerly waiting to see how the Legislature will address the tremendous conservation needs facing our state. North Dakota needs to protect our clean water, lands and outdoor heritage, and we need to do it now before much of what we all love and cherish is gone.

The Legislature is debating proposals that would create an Outdoor Heritage Fund – a grant fund for the purpose of land and water conservation. Unfortunately, there is a need to clarify misinformation about the proposed fund.

A well-funded Outdoor Heritage Fund with accountable leadership would grant funds to existing entities, not create new bureaucracy. That is effective, efficient government. North Dakota farmers and ranchers have a long and rich history in utilizing voluntary, incentive-based conservation programs. Almost every program available in the state has been underfunded with more people signing up than the existing funds can handle. The Outdoor Heritage Fund would increase the state investment in voluntary programs as the federal investment continues to decline.

North Dakota has the most restrictive laws in the country on farmers and ranchers selling their own land for conservation purposes. Nonprofits or state agencies cannot purchase a single acre without the permission of the governor. An Outdoor Heritage Fund would have absolutely no impact on those existing and very restrictive laws.

Protecting our natural heritage is about looking out for the interests of North Dakota people and future generations. By a more than 3-to-1 margin, North Dakota residents favor a significant investment from existing oil and gas tax revenue to maintain our clean water, outdoor heritage and iconic places like the Badlands.

This investment is both critical and overdue given the huge changes occurring in our great state. It is time for members of the Legislature to sharpen their pencils for real solutions. Our children need their leadership. Our quality of life depends on it.

Monson is a Valley City farmer and member of the Clean Water, Lands and Outdoor Heritage Coalition.