Extended ice walleye season plan unveiled

Staff Writer

St. Paul Anglers could have an extra week next year to fish
walleyes and northern pike, if an amendment to the House game and
fish bill is successful.

The amendment would extend the season from the third Sunday in
February to the fourth. Other amendments would extend the pheasant
season to Jan. 3, and prohibit the DNR from opening the duck season
before the Saturday closest to Oct. 1.

The pheasant season last year was extended to Dec. 31. Last
year’s duck opener was Sept. 25.

The amendments aren’t DNR ideas, but the agency likely will go
along with most of them, according to Bob Meier, DNR director of
legislative affairs.

“There’s nothing we can’t deal with,” Meier said.

However, the idea to extend the walleye season beyond the third
Sunday in February concerns the DNR. An extra week pits economic
interests against biological interests, Meier said.

“That’s the latest we would possibly go,” he said.

Among the other amendments offered in the House:

Allow children under age 12 to hunt turkey if they are within
arm’s reach of their parents or guardian while hunting.

Allow .30-caliber M1 carbines to be used to take big game.

Allow people who are blind to use laser sights with assistance
from a physically capable person.

Allow the DNR to apply the value of unused firearms and archery
licenses toward an upgrade to an all-season license.

Allow for owners and tenants who live on at least 40 acres of
land in a turkey zone to be eligible for a separate selection
process, and for the permit to be for the permit area where their
land is located.

Require trappers to have a trapper education certificate if they
haven’t been issued a trapping license in a year before March 1,
2004.

LCMR abolition proposed

Formal discussion in the Legislature about Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s
plan to overhaul the way conservation projects are funded in the
state can begin.

Pawlenty last October outlined his plan to replace the
Legislative Commission on Minnesota Resources, along with its
citizens commission and 20 legislators, with a panel of natural
resource and conservation experts called the Minnesota Conservation
Heritage Foundation.

Rep. Tom Hackbarth, R-Cedar, last week introduced a bill that
would accomplish that goal. Hackbarth serves on the LCMR. Other
authors were Rep. Al Juhnke, DFL-Willmar, Rep. Maxine Penas,
R-Badger, and Rep. Joe Hoppe, R-Chaska.

The MCHF would parcel out a growing portion of the
lottery-funded Environmental and Natural Resources Trust Fund about
$34 million per biennium now; as much as $70 million in about 10
years.

The bill also calls for the foundation to distribute about $6
million in grant money the DNR currently controls.

The bill doesn’t say it, but the foundation also likely would
spend any money if a dedicated funding bill passes, said Bob
Schroeder, Pawlenty’s deputy chief of staff.

Money would be spent on projects in line with the Minnesota
constitution, and with a strategic plan the foundation would
create, Schroeder said.

“Our concern is that the strategic plan currently is the next
election,” Schroeder said.

The foundation would have 11 volunteer members who have
expertise or experience in “the science, policy, or practice of the
protection, conservation, preservation, and enhancement of the
state’s air, water, land, fish, wildlife, and other natural
resources.” Paid employees of organizations with a similar mission
would not be eligible.

The governor would select the 11 members, with at least one from
each congressional district, and not more than six from the same
political party. The Senate would confirm all appointments.

Current LCMR employees would be kept on through June of 2007 to
provide assistance to the foundation. At that time, the foundation
would decide what its needs are and hire based on that. LCMR
employees could be re-hired, Schroeder said.

License fee adjustments

Fees for hunting and fishing licenses would increase each year
under a bill introduced by Sen. Satveer Chaudhary, DFL-Fridley.

Chaudhary’s bill would index license fees by tying them to the
Consumer Price Index. He said the idea would raise fees by about 3
percent each year. A resident fishing license, for example, would
increase about $.50 the first year after indexing.

“Every time fees fall behind inflation, it’s as good as a cut,”
Chaudhary said. “This would just be making up for past cuts, for
all practical purposes.”

Clean water efforts continue

Chaudhary also introduced in the Senate the Minnesota Fishing
Protection Act, a companion bill to the one Rep. Frank Moe,
DFL-Bemidji, introduced a couple of weeks ago.

The fishing protection act seeks to fund water quality
assessment and clean-up mandated under the Clean Water Act by
re-appropriating lottery money that currently goes into the General
Fund.

Another funding option that’s been introduced once by Chaudhary
is a fee on sewer and septic connections.

Some rural Minnesota senators say they won’t support new fees,
Chaudhary said. However, re-appropriating lottery dollars isn’t a
sure thing.

“That’s a tough sell as well,” Chaudhary said. “That’s General
Fund money that we already have a deficit of at the moment.”

Public land stands/blinds

The DNR has long considered stands and blinds on public land to
be public and not the property of the person who built them, but
such language doesn’t appear in state statute. A bill introduced by
Rep. Joe Hoppe, R-Chaska, would change that.

The bill would codify that all blinds and stands on public land
are public and can be used by anyone. It would also clarify
language about removing trees to create shooting lanes. The bill
says live trees can’t be cut on public land, except lateral tree
branches less than an inch in diameter, which could be removed to
construct and access an elevated stand.

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