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Coalition forms in opposition of Measure 5

The opponents of Measure 5 have formed a coalition.

Dan Wogsland is the Executive Director of the North Dakota Grain Growers Association.  He says the Decision Makers for Common Sense Conservation includes 101 legislators, 26 mayors, representatives from all 53 counties, and 300 cities.  Wogsland says there are many misconceptions about Measure 5, which would set aside five percent of revenues from the state's oil extraction tax collections for conservation.  He says one misconception is that five percent won't be a large sum of money.

"I've heard this many, many times - it's a small amount, it's only a little bit? $4.8 billion. $300 million every biennium. $150 million a year. $2.8 million a week. That's a lot."

And Wogsland says it pits taxpayers against each other.  He says the measure will give out of state interests unlimited funds to purchase land.

"They can come back and then go to government entities, like the North Dakota Department of Transportation, Fargo Diversion and others, and they can sell them mitigation credits off of that - for four to ten times the amount that they paid for that land. So they're going to take taxpayer money to compete with taxpayers, then they're going to take the money again and go back to the taxpayers, and make the taxpayers pay it again, and then, after that, they can go to US Fish and Wildlife Service, sell it back to the taxpayers - and not pay the taxes."

Perry Miller is a county commissioner from Richland County, and says one part of Measure 5 that troubles him is that proponents insist that local communities would be 'eligible' for the funds.

"I get letters in the mail every week that say I'm eligible to win a new car, or a million dollars, but that doesn't mean much to me. If I'm eligible for something, I want to know who is deciding what I am eligible for. I would prefer to be talking to my legislators in Bismarck, rather than a panel of people that I don't even know make it up. That's the key to this."

Fargo Representative Al Carlson also opposes the measure.  He says the way Measure 5 is written requires that at least 75 percent of the money is spent. 

"That's the fly in the ointment in my opinion. I'm all for having better parks, for having more CRP, for having more habitat for our wildlife, and I don't think anyone in this room is against that. But the point is, the mechanism is wrong. And honestly, you couldn't spend all that money unless you were buying land. I mean, you just couldn't.  There's not enough projects out there."

Carlson says the coalition believes North Dakota can do a better job at managing its own conservation efforts without help from outside political interests.  Wogsland says the coalition is working to educate voters about measure 5.

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