Sportsmen and sportswomen, time to start paying attention at Minnesota Capitol

There’s been a fair amount of hand-wringing and teeth-gnashing when it comes to some of what’s emerged this year from the state Capitol during the session that began right after the New Year.

Sportsmen have expressed a number of concerns about proposals in both the House and Senate, from those that take aim at public land acquisition to those that DNR officials say would result in maintaining a conservation officer corps that’s on par with what it was in the 1950s.

Bob Meier, DNR assistant commissioner, says it’s time for anglers, hunters, and other sportsmen to make themselves heard at the Capitol. Representatives of the various conservation groups have a presence at the Capitol – as they always do – but Meier said the average sportsman and woman is missing.

“You don’t see any private citizens,” he said. “Hopefully they are calling in and communicating with their elected officials.”

By comparison, in the mid-2000s – as sportsmen and others worked feverishly to pass what became the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment – sportsmen wearing blaze orange hats were a common sight in St. Paul, letting lawmakers know they’d hold accountable those who didn’t fall into line.

While agency budgets and conservation-related policy items may not be as sexy as passing a constitutional amendment, they’re no less important. Among the bills to which sportsmen should pay attention are:

  • HF 888, which is the House omnibus environment and natural resources finance and policy bill.
  • SF 723, which is the Senate omnibus environment and natural resources finance and policy bill.
  • HF 707, which is the House omnibus Legacy bill. (The Senate version, SF 566, could be on the floor later this week.)
  • HF 4, which is the House Tax bill and includes a provision that would require what amounts to PILT payments from the Outdoor Heritage Fund.

The House and Senate this week appointed conferees to a conference committee that will hash out the differences between the two bodies’ environment finance bills.

Senate members are: Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria; Carrie Ruud, R-Breezy Point; Torrey Westrom, R-Elbow Lake; Andrew Mathews, R-Milaca; and David Tomassoni, DFL-Chisholm.

House members are: Dan Fabian, R-Roseau; Josh Heintzeman, R-Nisswa; Chris Swedzinski, R-Ghent; Mark Uglem, R-Champlin; and Rob Ecklund, DFL-International Falls.

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