Dayton’s $1.5 billion bonding package includes money for CREP

Gov. Mark Dayton’s final bonding proposal includes $30 million for CREP, but leaves out any funding for wildlife management area acquisition. (Photo courtesy of Joe Albert)

Gov. Mark Dayton last week proposed the final bonding bill of his term as governor, a $1.5 billion package that’s full of capital investment projects across the state. (Click here for the full proposal, by agency.)

It remains to be seen what sort of appetite the Republican-led House and Senate have for a bonding bill, though it seems likely they’ll push for a total dollar amount less than what Dayton has requested.

In terms of natural resources, one of the highlights of Dayton’s bill is $30 million for the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program, which would bring the state closer to the $150 million or so it needs to leverage $350 million in federal funds. The goal over five years is to enroll 60,000 acres of land in 54 counties in the program. Officials with the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources say they’re on track to accomplish that.

For the DNR, Dayton’s proposal includes $171 million, of which the lion’s share – $130 million – would be used for asset preservation. One of the notable items not included is money for acquisition of lands such as wildlife management areas. While bonding dollars traditionally have been a source of funding for buying those properties, that’s not been the case since passage of the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment in 2008. Though that money was intended to supplement, not supplant, traditional sources of funding, when it comes to acquisitions these days, it’s pretty much the only game in town.

Theoretically, someone or some group could file suit over that issue, but don’t expect to see that happen. Given all the pressure on public land and land acquisition these days – in Minnesota and beyond – such a suit would be bad optics and likely unhelpful.

Don’t expect things to happen quickly regarding a bonding bill when the legislative session kicks off Feb. 20. Typically, the bill is used as leverage to get other things done and is one of the final pieces of legislation taken up during a session.

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