Tuesday, January 31st, 2023
Tuesday, January 31st, 2023

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Parks get boost from Ventura proposal

Associate Editor

St. Paul Minnesota state parks are on track for better than $31
million in improvements under a proposal released last week by Gov.
Jesse Ventura.

Parks are considered one of the winners under the governor’s
proposed bonding bill, which totals about $800 million.

“It’s a big bump for parks, probably four to five times what
they usually get,” said Steve Morse, DNR deputy commissioner.

On the opposite end, Lake Superior Safe Harbors funding, for
which the DNR had requested $1.75 million, received nothing in the
governor’s proposal. Of that request, $1.5 million was for a safe
harbor and facility at McQuade Road in Duluth. Already, a number of
sources, including the state and federal government, have
contributed to the project, which is to include a 3.1-acre basin
protected by breakwaters, four launch ramps, three docks, and 90
car/trailer and 35 car-only parking spaces.

The remaining $250,000 “safe harbor” funding was to be used for
the Knife River Marina.

State park improvements were a priority, both for the DNR and
the governor.

According to DNR parks officials, the $31 million will “reduce
the backlog of building, utility, and natural resource
rehabilitation and replacement projects within the state park
system.”

In addition, the governor’s proposal includes a $1 million
request for state park acquisition funding. According to the DNR,
about 23 landowners in 18 different parks have expressed interest
in selling.

Other capital funding provided under Ventura’s proposal includes
the following:

RIM – $7 million (Water and Soil Resources Board) and $3 million
(DNR).

Water and Soil Resources Board (BOWSR) officials requested more
than $20 million for the Reinvest in Minnesota (RIM) Reserve and
Permanent Wetlands Preserve programs, both of which compensate
landowners for conservation easements. The governor has proposed $7
million.

DNR officials requested $3 million, an amount proposed by
Ventura. According to the DNR’s request, land acquisition efforts
“will be aimed at completing existing WMAs with a major emphasis on
acquisition in the 18-county high population growth corridor’ from
St. Cloud to the Twin Cities to Rochester.” This focus will include
“purchase of development rights” (PDRs) in which the state would
buy development rights, but the landowner would retain all other
rights and responsibilities of land ownership.

Field office improvements – $7 million.

Several DNR field offices are in need of renovation or
improvements, officials say. To varying degrees, the following
locations could receive facilities funding: Warroad (new site, new
office), Rochester Regional Headquarters, Metro Regional
Headquarters, Talcot Lake Wildlife Management Area, Little Fork
Forestry, Hill City Forestry, Montrose Fisheries, Roseau River WMA,
Red Lake WMA, Mora Forestry, Sandy Lake, McGrath Forestry, Onamia
Forestry, and Karlstad Wildlife.

Fish hatchery improvements – $300,000.

Three fish hatcheries the Brainerd Warm Water Hatchery
($90,000), the French River Hatchery ($50,000), and the Spire
Valley Hatchery ($160,000), are candidates for hatchery improvement
projects.

The DNR request and Ventura proposal also calls for $500,000 in
bonding funds for aquatic management areas, along with habitat
improvement and development. The funds would be used for habitat
improvement, either by the DNR or local groups receiving
“pass-through” funds.

Prairie Bank Easements – $500,000.

Similar to aquatic management, Prairie Bank Easements (PBEs) are
for natural resources protection, in this case land acquisitions to
protect native prairie plant communities while leaving land in
private ownership.

At the current time, 31 PBEs protect nearly 3,000 acres of
land.

Office facilities – $4.6 million.

The Grand Marais ($3.1 million) and Thief River Falls ($1.5
million) locations are scheduled to receive funding to acquire,
construct, remodel, renovate, or otherwise develop new employee
offices and workspaces.

State trail development and acquisition – $2.55 million.

This DNR bonding request is primarily for continued development
of three trails the Goodhue Pioneer, Gitchi Gami, and Shooting Star
and for trail rehabilitation of three others Munger, Luce Line, and
Douglas.

State forest land acquisition – $500,000.

DNR’s Forestry Division also will seek acquisition of more land,
and $500,000 would be made available under the governor’s
proposal.

According to Forestry officials, the division “administers
nearly 4.4 million acres of the roughly 5.3 million acres of
DNR-administered land.” Furthermore, the funding would allow the
division “to acquire critical parcels in key locations that are
under immediate development pressure.”

Forestry’s six-year plans calls for the purchase of about 4,000
acres from a list of private sellers within the boundaries of nine
state forests. Total cost is about $4.3 million.

Reforestation – $2.5 million.

The DNR also is seeking $2.5 million for reforestation, funding
provided under Ventura’s proposal. Division officials say
reforestation should be considered a capital expense rather than a
yearly operating expense because of the many recreational uses of
state forest.

However, they say the division will spend more than $4 million
in general fund appropriations during the next biennium for
reforestation, as well. The funding also would aid in repair of
thousands of acres of forest damaged by windstorms in 2001.

Forest roads and bridges – $1.2 million.

This funding, requested by the DNR and proposed by the governor,
would be used to repair three bridges the Swamp River Bridge in
Grand Portage State Forest, the Schuh bridge in Beltrami State
Forest, and the Chelsey Brook bridge in Snake River State Forest
and repair about 90 miles of state forest road.

Metro “Greenways” and natural areas – $1 million.

This funding, proposed by the governor, would protect habitat in
the metro area through conservation easements, land trusting, and
fee acquisition.

Another $15.5 million was requested by the DNR and proposed by
the governor for flood hazard mitigation grants.

The Legislature will develop its own capital budget during the
session. DNR capital funding under the governor’s proposal totals
about $88 million. State officials predict a Senate capital
proposal larger than the governor’s, while the House proposal could
be similar in funding proposed.

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