Gov. on CREP: Get legislative support

St. Paul If proponents of CREP expect Gov. Jesse Ventura to make
the program a budget priority, they’d better garner legislative
support before the 2001 session.

That’s the latest message that Judy Erickson, CREP coordinator
for the Friends of the Minnesota River Valley, is hearing from
Ventura’s staff. Created under Gov. Arne Carlson’s Administration,
the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) would
permanently set aside 100,000 acres of highly erodible land within
the Minnesota River watershed. Conservation-minded legislators and
outdoor groups have called CREP a top priority for the 2001
session.

“It’s a bit unusual that they’re demanding to hear from
legislators now, before the session,” Erickson said. “But that’s
the way this administration works.”

The governor’s office has received from between 20 and 40
letters per week since October from the general public urging
Ventura’s support for CREP, Erickson said. But the governor wants
to hear that legislators will support the program before he’ll
include full funding in the Board of Water and Soil Resources
budget for CREP.

The governor’s office blames legislators for not funding CREP to
the extent his office proposed during the 2000 session, Erickson
said. Last year, the governor’s budget proposed $25 million for
CREP easements and $4.5 million to administer and implement it. The
Legislature fulfilled $20 million for easements and $500,000 for
implementation. The DNR eventually kicked in another $500,000.

But an additional $98 million in federal dollars earmarked for
the Minnesota River CREP program still remains in Washington D.C.
awaiting the remaining state match of about $50 million. CREP
proponents want the state to allocate that entire amount in
2001.

The total includes $43 million for purchasing easements and $8.4
million for the state to use in implementing the remainder of the
program.

David Ruth, a spokesperson for the governor’s office, confirmed
Tuesday that the governor wants to hear from legislators as well as
the public on support for CREP.

“We understand that there’s great public support for this, but
the fact is that last year the governor put up nearly $30 million
in bonding for this and the Legislature cut it,” Ruth said. “I
don’t think this request is out of the ordinary given the
circumstances last year.”

Ruth suggested CREP supporters contact their legislators and
urge them to state their support for CREP to the governor.

Via public letters and comments, Ventura’s office maintains a
top 10 list of important issues. Several Outdoor News sources said
CREP has been on the list in recent months, though Ruth said it was
not a top 10 issue this week.

The state must implement CREP by September 2002, so the 2001
Legislative session marks an important crossroads for CREP,
Erickson said. The 2002 session likely will finish too late to
earmark additional dollars.

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