Dayton signs off on outdoor-related bills

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.”

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