DNR budget picture, G&F bills emerging

Associate Editor

St. Paul In November, analysts predicted a possible state
government budget shortfall of $185 million for the coming year.
Now, there’s word that the deficit could be greater, according to
Joe Kurcinka, administrator of the DNR’s Office of Management and
Budget.

“If it grows, there may be a need to look at the General Fund
and agencies for reductions,” he said.

Or perhaps not. “The $185 million is well within what’s there
for a rainy day (state reserves),” Kurcinka added.

Any budget cutting that would take place would likely not
greatly affect fish and wildlife because of dedicated accounts for
those areas, said Brad Moore, DNR operations manager.

Whatever the amount, it will pale in comparison to last year’s
budget deficit of $4.5 billion for the biennium. That caused the
DNR to cut over $12 million for the next two fiscal years against
General Fund annual revenue of about $100 million in the DNR’s
budget, Kurcinka said.

Each division of the DNR felt the cuts, some greater than
others. Wildlife and Fisheries because of dedicated funding from
license fees depend less on General Fund monies. Divisions like
Forestry suffered the most. Enforcement, which already had a number
of field conservation officer vacancies, was held constant in
General Funds, Kurcinka said. The Legislature also increased
funding for the division, he said. That’s because of the
administration’s desire to begin to return the number of COs to
past levels.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty will examine the projected budget deficit at
the end of the month and determine a plan of action that the
Legislature must approve.

Capital budget

Kurcinka said the department’s immediate concern is its capital
budget bonding funds recommended by Gov. Pawlenty that total $67
million.

Included in the capital budget is $12 million earmarked for
state wildlife management area acquisition. The funding would allow
for the purchase of about 11,000 acres for public hunting and
wildlife watching.

The capital budget also includes $4 million for the Reinvest in
Minnesota Critical Habitat Match, a program that combines monetary
or land contributions with state matching funds to enhance critical
habitat, which may be wildlife management areas, aquatic management
areas, state forests, scientific and natural areas, or state
parks.

Four hatcheries the French River, Lanesboro, New London, and
Hinckley would receive a total of $1.75 million for improvements
under the budget plan.

Legislative bills

A number of bills have begun to flow though the House and
Senate.

Sen. Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, has introduced a bill that would grant
minors (under the age of 18) a Social Security requirement
exemption when they purchase fish or game licenses. By state law,
Social Security numbers are required when applying for a license.
The number must be provided to the commissioner of human services
for child support enforcement purposes.

Sen. Bob Kierlin, R-Winona, has proposed a change in the fee
charged for nonresident archery deer licenses. Under language added
in SF 1733, the fee charged a nonresident to take deer by archery
would be “the greater of: an amount equal to the fee charged to a
Minnesota resident to obtain a license to take deer by archery in
the person’s state or province of residence; or $135.”

In Iowa, the nonresident cost to hunt deer is about $220; in
Wisconsin, it’s $135. Kierlin said the idea was brought to him by a
constituent a bowhunter.

Sen. Mike Jungbauer, R-East Bethel, has introduced a bill that
would prohibit the hunting of white deer.

A number of House bills, introduced but not acted upon by the
House last year, were to be heard by the House Environment and
Natural Resources Policy Committee on Thursday.

They cover a wide range of topics, from shooting range
protection (Rep. Tom Hackbarth, R-Cedar); authorization of a
mourning dove hunting season (Hackbarth); and changes in state game
refuge rules, turkey licenses for owned and leased land, size
limits for walleyes and northerns (changes the general length limit
for daily taking of walleye and northern pike respectively to not
more than one of 20 inches, and one of 24 inches), and license
suspension (Rep. Joe Hoppe, R-Chaska).

New rules for deer/elk

carcass import?

A state senator has introduced language the DNR said would be
included in the agency’s omnibus game and fish bill to be formally
introduced in the near future.

In an attempt to reduce the chances of chronic wasting disease
entering Minnesota, a CWD bill last session restricted the import
of hunter harvested deer and elk from outside the state. However,
the bill inadvertently affected taxidermists and meat processors in
the state.

A bill introduced by Sen. Michelle Fischbach, R-Paynesville,
would allow the import of the harvested game if the carcass “is
verifiably destined, by prearrangement, to a taxidermist or meat
processor within the state.”

Ed Boggess, DNR Wildlife resource manager, said the language
promoted by the agency would be similar to that of Fischbach’s
bill, but also would allow nonresidents to transport carcasses
through the state.

Boggess said the CWD legislation’s language barring all
harvested deer and elk being transported into the state was some of
the most controversial to come from the 2003 session.

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