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18

Life in North Dakota seems good at the moment. The budget for the state has a $450 million surplus, has the nation’s lowest unemployment rate and has a population of only 725,000.

The once neglected state is now becoming one of the nation’s most affluent states. However, as with any group that suddenly finds themselves with new wealth, there are arguments about how best to spend it.

There is a heated debate and a contentious ballot this year asking voters whether they believe 5% of all future oil revenue should fund state conservation efforts.

The campaigns for both sides are being supported by numerous organisations both inside and outside of the state. The Nature Conservancy, based in Virginia, has so far provided $600,000 for the yes campaign.

The conservancy currently manages 16,000 acres in North Dakota and hopes that a positive result in the ballot will help protect the natural landscape and wildlife in the state.

Despite that hunting and fishing are not mentioned in the ballot, some hunting groups have placed their support for the new measure. Pheasants Forever are one group and so are Ducks Unlimited.

Howard Vincent, chief executive of Pheasants Forever has stated that the disappearance of wetlands, contamination of waterways and the decline in honeybee populations are a growing threat to the state’s heritage.

North Dakota produces more oil than any other state, apart from Texas, with 314 million barrels produced in 2013. With the current output and prices, annual funds worth $150 million for conservation efforts would be generated if the yes campaign won.

However, the proposal does meet some strong opposition from a number of different stakeholders including: the agriculture industry, oil producers, education groups, builders and business organisations.

Opponents state that the fund, which could equate to $4 million a week, could be irresponsibly spent by the state. The group adds that there is currently no spending plan for the fund, which gives them cause for concern.

What are your views? Should oil tax revenue be spent on conservation?

Let us know in the comments below.


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