Missed opportunities

by Bret “T-Bone” Amundson

How many times have you been waiting in the blind on a slow morning for that first flock of mallards to finally buzz the decoys, and the realization hits that you shouldn’t have had that last cup of coffee?  You make your way to your feet just in time to see firsthand the aerial acrobatics of a flaring greenhead.

Or, maybe you’ve decided to warm up by climbing down from a tree stand after a frigid November morning.   Your boot breaks through the crusty snow with a loud crunch.   You turn to grab your unloaded rifle hanging helplessly nearby and witness the star of your trail camera photos not 30 yards away, snickering.

Missed opportunities.

The reasons behind them vary, but we all have our stories about the big one “getting away”.   Personally, I blame it on my hunting partner.   Is that wrong?

Our neighbors to the northwest had the big one slip through their fingers earlier this week.    A whopper that some estimated was worth nearly $90 million dollars.

The Clean Water, Land and Outdoor Heritage amendment was scheduled to go on the ballot in North Dakota this November.   It was a petition driven initiative that would have diverted 5% of oil and gas extraction and production tax revenues into a fund that would have been used for conservation projects.

Just like that, it was wiped right off the ballot.  Why?  I’ll get to that.

According to www.ndheritage.org, the fund would have been overseen by a 9-member citizen board.  4 members would have been appointed by the Legislature, 4 by the Governor and 1 by the wildlife professionals in the state.  The state auditor would conduct a review of the funds expenditures with the findings released to the public.

Then, the fund could be used for land and water projects that could restore or maintain wildlife habitat, improve water quality and maintain or restore natural flood protection.

News came out this week that not all the petition signatures were valid.  Not sure if the Hilary Clinton signature is what tipped them off or not, but of the 37,000+ signatures gathered, over 17,000 of them were deemed invalid.   That leaves them over 7,000 short of the necessary amount.

This initiative and another, involving medical marijuana, were both pulled from the ballot.  A lot of hard work and money are now gone the way of the dinosaur.

For the most part, you didn’t hear anything about this.  All you heard were the participants involved in the signature gathering process: National Champion North Dakota State Bison football players.

Some shortsightedness by college students along with sloppy fact checking by the company that hired them, and poof!  90 million dollars a year of conservation funds have disappeared down a dusty section road.

Missed opportunity.

Voters still had to pass this measure of course.  There was some opposition to this measure by some who felt their property rights may be threatened.   However, I felt it was a step in the right direction in creating the balance needed.

Let’s get our share of money from the energy development, but with enough foresight to not do it with reckless abandon.  Regulate it in a way that doesn’t compromise the heritage and tradition for the next generation.

Elsewhere in the state, 1.2 million acres of CRP are expiring again this year.    I felt that this small percentage of the wads and wads of cash coming annually could have helped replace some of the CRP land lost every year.   CRP provides important nesting grounds for various birds and offers cover for all sorts of critters.

Was the Clean Water, Land and Heritage amendment the right answer?  We’ll never know.  The bottom line is that to continue the tradition of hunting and fishing, we need to protect the resources that we have available to us and create more opportunity.  $90 million dollars a year would go a long way towards that goal.

Will another opportunity like this come along?  I hope so.  But for now I feel like North Dakota watched a big fat rooster get up at the end of the field and they’d already unloaded their gun.


by Bret “T-Bone” Amundson


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