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Associated Press, Published August 30 2013

Oil-money-for-conservation petitions approved

BISMARCK — Conservation advocates who want a bigger portion of North Dakota oil tax revenues for an outdoor heritage fund can begin collecting signatures to try to bring their proposal to a public vote next year.

Secretary of State Al Jaeger says he has approved the petitions for circulation. Supporters of the idea need to collect about 27,000 signatures by Aug. 6, 2014, to get the measure on the November 2014 general election ballot, Jaeger said in a statement.

The proposed Clean Water, Wildlife and Parks Trust would set aside 5 percent of the state's oil extraction tax revenue. The governor, attorney general and agriculture commissioner would oversee the fund, which would be used for projects such as wildlife habitat and outdoor recreation areas.

A similar proposal last year was derailed by a petition fraud scandal that involved faked signatures. It would have set aside 5 percent of both the oil extraction and oil production tax.

A new Outdoor Heritage Fund approved earlier this year by the North Dakota Legislature can collect up to $15 million per year through the oil production tax.

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