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Forum Editorial Board, Published April 15 2013

Forum editorial: Stop drive to weaken a good law

Rep. Todd Porter, R-Mandan, N.D., is on his third attempt to remove respected conservation organizations from representation on the North Dakota Outdoor Heritage Conservation Fund’s advisory board. His motivation is suspect. His reasons are nonsensical. And his third attempt is downright obtuse, since the legislation easily passed both houses of the Legislature and has been signed into law by Gov. Jack Dalrymple. Oh, by the way, the legislation is pretty much what the governor proposed. It’s not all conservation groups hoped for, but it’s a sound compromise.

Despite overwhelming support for the bill, Porter is engaging in legislative sleight of hand with an amendment that would remove participation by Ducks Unlimited of North Dakota, the North Dakota Natural Resources Trust and the North Dakota chapter of Pheasants Forever. The 12-member board also includes an at-large member from the conservation community.

Porter contends at least two of the groups are pursuing a constitutional amendment to establish a conservation fund. Leaders of DU and the trust assured him they are not. In fact, the three groups targeted by Porter helped write the legislation. Their only concern was it did not include enough money ($30 million over two years), but they understood what was possible and supported the bill. They went to work with the governor and lawmakers when a ballot measure did not get on the 2012 statewide ballot. Their good-faith position was to help write the legislation, which is precisely what conservation groups did.

Now Porter’s amendment is undermining that spirit of cooperation by attempting an end run around a signed law. He’s doing what conservation organizations feared the Legislature would do: Erode the effectiveness of a conservation fund by eliminating from the process qualified advocates for conservation, stewardship and habitat.

Porter is in a snit because conservationists pushed a resolution in the state Senate asking for $100 million for the fund. It was defeated. It was introduced in response to Porter’s attempts to pull a fast one by removing conservation voices from the fund’s board. The resolution was an honest reaction to Porter’s scheme to fracture relationships that had been nurtured among all interests involved in the legislation.

The groups in Porter’s gun sights are among the most respected, most successful outdoor/conservation/

habitat advocacy organizations in the state. Leaders and members are North Dakotans who value the state’s natural – and threatened – heritage. Porter, who ironically is a member of DU and Pheasants Forever, is one of those threats.

Porter’s amendment passed the committee he chairs. Maybe members were deferring to the chairman. Nonetheless, the sneaky amendment is guaranteed to debase respect for the Legislature. The full House should bury it.

Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum

management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.