North Dakotans Want to Conserve State’s Best Lands and Waters

North Dakotans Want to Conserve State’s Best Lands and Waters
Poll Shows Voters Want State to Dedicate Money, Expand Property Rights to Advance Conservation.

Ducks Unlimited
Ducks Unlimited

BISMARCK, ND –-( A large majority of North Dakotans support conserving the state’s best water, natural areas and wildlife habitat through dedicated state funding and by providing landowners the tools they need to conserve their property, according to a poll released today by Ducks Unlimited, The Nature Conservancy, Audubon Dakota and the North Dakota Natural Resources Trust.

Conducted by a bipartisan research team, the survey results clearly demonstrate that by a wide margin North Dakota voters support conservation and approve of expanding upon current efforts to better protect the state’s natural areas, water, and wildlife habitat. Specifically, voters favor dedicating state funding for conservation, allowing landowners to sell their property to non-profit conservation organizations, and permanent conservation easements.

The poll found that 67 percent of voters support dedicating state funding for conservation. Voters are nearly twice as likely to strongly support setting aside state money to protect North Dakota’s lands and waters than to strongly oppose such an action. Support for dedicating state funding for conservation is not only deep but also broad, with voters from every region of the state and from a wide variety of demographic groups in the state backing the concept.

“The state is changing and it’s clear that a sizeable majority of North Dakotans agree that it’s time to preserve our best lands and waters, including by increasing state funding for conservation,” said Keith Trego, executive director of the North Dakota Natural Resources Trust.

Genevieve Thompson, vice president and executive director of Audubon Dakota, agreed. “North Dakota residents love the outdoors. And they want to conserve their water, wetlands, wildlife habitat and native prairies.”

The poll also showed that an overwhelming majority of North Dakotans — 85 percent — support allowing landowners to sell their property to conservation organizations. Support is overwhelming even among voters who make a living from agriculture — 83 percent among those at least somewhat reliant on agriculture favor allowing landowners to sell their property to conservation organizations.

In addition, three-in-five North Dakota voters support allowing conservation organizations to use permanent easements as a strategy for conserving natural areas, water, and wildlife habitat in the state. More than 60 percent of voters support conservation easements, or voluntary land preservation agreements, that allow landowners to continue to own, work and maintain their property but ensure that the land is not developed.

“There seems to be a disconnect between what North Dakotans want and the state allows, especially regarding laws that keep landowners from conserving their property with a permanent conservation easement or by selling it to a conservation group,” said Steve Adair, director of Ducks Unlimited’s Great Plains Office in Bismarck.

Peggy Ladner, director of The Nature Conservancy in North Dakota, said she hopes the results released today will prompt state leaders to step up and provide the tools needed to conserve North Dakota’s best lands and waters.

“We’re hopeful that state lawmakers will recognize that this is both what the public wants and what is best for North Dakota,” she said. “By conserving key lands and waters, we protect the quality and quantity of our water supply, mitigate flooding, control erosion, preserve grazing lands and ensure the state remains a great place to live, work and explore.”

The telephone poll of 400 likely voters from throughout North Dakota was conducted between April 6 and April 8 by the bipartisan research team of Public Opinion Strategies, a Republican political and public affairs research firm, and Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz and Associates, a Democratic research and public policy analysis firm. The poll’s margin of error for the full sample is 4.9 percent.