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MN outdoor people step up to pressure legislators to make a difference, + legislative wrap up

Discussion in 'Minnesota Flyway Forum' started by h2ofwlr, Jun 6, 2017.

  1. h2ofwlr

    h2ofwlr Elite Refuge Member

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    DNR commissioner: Minnesotans speak up for outdoors, help agency secure funding from Legislature
    June 2, 2017
    Associated Press
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    The fee to access Minnesota state parks — such as iconic Itasca State Park, home of the famed headwaters of the Mississippi River — will go up, but the public construction borrowing bill provided just $15 million of the $33 million the DNR sought for preserving facilities at state parks and elsewhere, including around $3 million for a project at Itasca. (Brian Peterson photo)
    MINNEAPOLIS — An outcry by Minnesotans who hunt, fish, use state parks and ride snowmobiles and ATVs helped the Department of Natural Resources get most of the money it requested from the Legislature, Commissioner Tom Landwehr said earlier this week.

    That wasn’t a foregone conclusion. The budget bills that first emerged from the House and Senate left out all, or nearly all, the user fee increases the agency sought, and the hikes didn’t make it into the DNR’s budget bill until the very end of the session, the commissioner said in an interview with The Associated Press.

    “The public got very vocal as they saw what was coming out of the individual houses. They said, ‘Wait a minute. We want these fee increases,'” Landwehr said. “I think that’s why the conference committee put them back in. The impacts would have been quite consequential.”

    Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed the original environment and natural resources budget bill that the House and Senate passed May 9, which did not include the hunting, fishing, park, boat, snowmobile and ATV fee increases the DNR said were necessary to avoid deep cuts to programs enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of Minnesota residents. Those increases didn’t appear until a House-Senate conference committee unveiled a new bill on the final weekend of the regular session. Lawmakers passed it May 21, and the governor signed it Tuesday.

    Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria, who was on the conference committee, concurred that public pressure made the difference. Lawmakers didn’t see an immediate public appetite for fee increases early in the session, he said, but outdoors groups eventually spoke up.

    “When there’s that much support out there, it’s much easier for us to pass that,” Ingebrigtsen said.

    The DNR didn’t get everything it wanted, such as higher watercraft registration fees to support the operation and maintenance of 1,500 public water accesses. Landwehr said his department will ask again. He also said a plan to use some state lottery proceeds for internships to help create a more racially diverse workforce within the agency will have to be delayed until more funding is secured.

    And the public construction borrowing bill provided just $15 million of the $33 million the DNR sought for preserving facilities at state parks and elsewhere, so the agency will try again in 2018, he said.

    The commissioner pointed out that much of the sewage system at Itasca State Park, where the Mississippi River begins in northern Minnesota, is 100 years old, and repairing it will cost around $3 million. The water system at Blue Mounds State Park in southwestern Minnesota is contaminated with bacteria, and the visitor center fell into such disrepair that it had to be closed. So that park needs another $2-3 million, he said.
     
  2. h2ofwlr

    h2ofwlr Elite Refuge Member

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    Dayton signs off on outdoor-related bills
    May 31, 2017
    Joe Albert
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    Gov. Mark Dayton late Tuesday afternoon signed into law several bills that do everything from fund the DNR to disburse money from the Outdoor Heritage and Environment and Natural Resources Trust funds. He also signed off on a bonding bill that includes $10 million for a portion of the state’s responsibility for the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program.

    Dayton’s signature on budget bills, including the aforementioned one that funds the state’s environment and natural resources agencies, heads off a state government shutdown. In a letter to House Speaker Kurt Daudt and Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, Dayton said he was signing the budget bills to “forestall a bitter June showdown over a state government shutdown. I have strong disagreements with certain provisions in every one of these bills.”

    Dayton previously had vetoed an omnibus environment and natural resources budget bill, but signed a reworked bill that made only slight modifications to the state’s buffer law (allowing certain landowners eight-month waivers for installing buffers or alternative practices) and that included many of the fee increases the DNR sought.


    Included among the increases, which go into effect next March, are a $3 hike to the cost of a resident fishing license (from $22 to $25) and a $4 increase to the cost of a resident deer hunting license (from $30 to $34).


    The bill also allows scopes on muzzleloaders and deer hunters to wear blaze pink. It precludes the DNR from further restricting lead shot for two years, and will allow the DNR Enforcement Division to hold two academies in 2018 and hire as many as 36 new conservation officers.

    “I am pleased that an agreement was reached on this bill since there were many items in the original bill proposed by the Legislature that I found objectionable,” Dayton wrote.

    In addition, he wrote that he’d submit a bonding request in 2018 “that will assure that CREP is fully funded.” The state needs another $33.7 million during the 2018 session to ensure the state doesn’t lose federal CREP dollars.

    Dayton also signed the Legacy bill, which includes the recommendations of the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council. However, it doesn’t include provisions that sportsmen say were anti-public land.

    “I am pleased that an agreement was reached on this bill, since there were policy provisions in the original bill proposed by the Legislature that I found objectionable,” Dayton wrote. “I am also glad the Lessard-Sams (Outdoor Heritage) Council’s recommendations were restored. Thank you for your commitment to the many sportsmen and women, outdoor recreation enthusiasts, hunters, anglers, and everyone else committed to the enhancement of our state’s priceless outdoor heritage.”

    While Dayton signed the bill that allocates money from the lottery-funded Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund, he indicated in his letter that he was signing it – rather than letting it become law without his signature – “to ensure there are no legal challenges.”

    In the bill, the Legislature cut or reduced amounts for 11 projects the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources had recommended. Dayton noted lawmakers made the changes to provide an additional $13.5 million for CREP, but “included a fraction of the funding I requested for CREP in the bonding bill and the Clean Water Fund.”

    In his letter, Dayton said he was “deeply disappointed” by the actions surrounding the 11 projects.

    “This action seriously undermines the integrity of a process that includes citizens who volunteer hundreds of hours each year reviewing and recommending projects for the funding,” Dayton wrote. “It is very concerning to me that the projects deleted from the recommendations appear to be more focused on making a political statement on climate change, renewable energy, and equity, rather than reflecting a thoughtful reallocation of funds by the Legislature.”
     
  3. h2ofwlr

    h2ofwlr Elite Refuge Member

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    On a scale of 1 to 10 with a 1 being outright dismal, and a 10 being outstanding for the outdoors, I's rate this year as a 4.

    The BS some legislators tried pulling on eliminating the buffer strip , and unconstitutionally trying to divert Lessard-Sams $ really hurt. They cut $11M from the L-S bill to divert it to CREP. Also only 10M VS 33 Million for CREP stung. As did only getting 40% for needed repairs that the DNR had asked for.

    These 5 items hurt, make no mistake about it.

    The jokers like Rep Steve Green that call themselves legislators trying to gut the Buffer Law, and he ALSO wanted to divert the the Lessard -Sams to pay for the roads and bridges (unconstitutional) should be tar and feathered and sent packing down the road.

    Make no mistake, it could have been a LOT worse this session. Frankly - Thank God for Gov Dayton that stopped the hijacking by vetoing the bills and forcing them to take out the BS that the errant legislators had wanted.

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