Ventura budget cuts $15 million from DNR

Associate Editor

St. Paul DNR officials say Gov. Ventura’s budget proposal likely
will result in the slashing of more than $15 million from their
operating budget, according to Steve Morse, DNR deputy
commissioner.

And while the Legislature could alter the DNR’s anticipated
course of action, Morse said plans are being made for many probable
changes.

One program facing elimination is the Minnesota Conservation
Corps, a program that includes 13 full-time staff members and
several part-time and seasonal workers. The program caters to
nearly 300 youths who learn outdoors skills through conservation
and community service work.

Morse said the program likely would be cut immediately, saving
the DNR about $2.6 million this biennium. The annual cost of the
MCC is about $2.1 million. By cutting the program now, the
department would save $500,000 this year (the fiscal year ends June
30), and $2.1 next year.

Though money will remain in the budget for the Forest Resources
Council, cuts may all but eliminate the group’s functions. The
council is comprised of a variety of forestry interests.

The annual Forest Resources Council budget of $900,000 would be
decreased to $200,000 beginning July 1 when the new fiscal year
commences, Morse said.

Staff reductions will likely take place at each regional
location. Morse said each location has a public information officer
and a planner. One of those people would be cut at each location,
along with probably two members of the clerical staff at each
office. Morse says the DNR is attempting to avoid layoffs.

“We’re making every effort to relocate folks,” he said.

Most grant programs will see an across-the-board 10 percent
decrease in funding, including some lakes improvement and parks
grants. The reduction will result in about $1.2 million saved,
Morse said.

Dedicated funds were for the most part spared, he said. However,
a new fund that contains wildlife management area habitat grants
will be cut in half next year, from $1 million to $500,000. The
program distributes funds to conservation groups for habitat
improvement projects on WMAs.

“Everyone in the agency knows what these cuts are,” said Peggy
Adelmann, administrator for the DNR’s Office of Management and
Budget Services. “Managers are managing based on these cuts.”

Adelmann said if legislators fail to act on the governor’s
proposed budget cuts, Ventura could “unallot” the funding early in
the session, perhaps in the first week in late January.

“If the Legislature acts quickly and develops its plan, it could
look different than the governor’s,” she said.

The DNR cuts are part of a statewide strategy to address an
estimated $2 billion budget deficit.

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