Lloyd Jones, Baldwin
North Dakota has many special places. The Badlands, Turtle Mountains, several state parks and many lakes and rivers. But all are small in comparison to the very special, unique and productive prairie grasslands and wetlands of the state. North Dakota is a key area, a leader in waterfowl migration and production and providing habitat for a host of other shore birds, song birds and our resident wildlife like deer, pheasants and grouse. These grasslands and wetlands are important, not only for all of these wildlife species, but also for the role these areas play in reducing flooding, recharging ground water and helping to improve our water quality.
Unfortunately, many grasslands and wetlands are being converted to other uses. North Dakota has already lost 75 percent of the native grasslands and more than 50 percent of the wetlands. And the remaining is going fast, primarily because conservation efforts are all falling short. Right now every conservation program is oversubscribed with more interest from landowners, than there is funding available.
The Clean Water, Wildlife and Parks Amendment can change that. By providing funding, real incentive based programs can be developed that will help farmers and ranchers do conservation on their land. This funding would not be a new tax, it's money being collected now from all of the oil and gas activity, most from out of state. And, the funding would not affect current programs benefitting from oil and gas dollars.
We may have taken for granted all the great hunting, fishing and special places provided by the state's grasslands and wetlands. But now is the time to act or these benefits will continue to be lost. The future of North Dakota's special places will be determined by what we do now. Wildlife and the citizens of North Dakota will all benefit from the Clean Water, Wildlife and Parks Amendment.
(Jones is the former director of the North Dakota Game and Fish Department)