WMAs, CREP II top bonding proposals for 2006 agenda

By Joe Albert

Staff Writer

St. Paul – Next year’s bonding bill – assuming it’s passed on
time, and if the DNR and Board of Water and Soil Resources get what
they’ve proposed – will be a boon to sportsmen.

Potential highlights include: $20 million for the acquisition of
wildlife management areas; $30.15 million for RIM Reserve and a
second round of CREP; $6 million for fisheries; and $10 million for
forest conservation easements.

“It’s quite an impressive package – very aggressive and very
important,” said Minnesota Conservation Federation’s Gary Botzek.
“This entire package is good stuff.”

DNR requests total $128.5 million. Most, $100 million, is for a
Sesquicentennial Conservation Initiative, which includes $28
million for fish and wildlife, $11 million for natural lands and
waters, $22 million for forests, and $39 million for outdoor

Officials stressed the numbers simply are requests, and still
have to be approved by the Department of Finance and the governor’s
office. If a bonding bill passes next spring, any money would be
available in July of 2006.

This is the DNR’s largest bonding proposal; others have been
less than $100 million.

“This is a very large request, but when you look at the
importance of the outdoors to Minnesota, we think it’s pretty
reasonable,” said Brad Moore, assistant DNR commissioner. “If not
now, when?”

Two of the bonding requests – money for WMAs and CREP – likely
will be among the top three issues for sportsmen next legislative
session, said Lance Ness, president of the Fish and Wildlife
Legislative Alliance. The third is likely to be dedicated funding.
Ness and others are pushing a dedicated funding plan that would
include money for both clean water and fish and wildlife

Others groups are pushing a fee-based approach to funding the

In the face of increasing forest fragmentation in the northern
part of the state, WMAs will be necessary to provide access for
hunters and other outdoor enthusiasts, Ness said. The DNR said it
plans to buy 5,000 acres of WMA land with the money.

“It’s really important we get land designated as WMAs,” he said.
“It’s vital.”

Since the session starts next year on March 1 (It started last
year in early January), it will be important to prioritize the
issues, Botzek said.

In addition to CREP and WMAs, there’s the Clean Water Legacy,
dedicated funding, and reform of the Legislative Commission on
Minnesota Resources, he said.

“I don’t know how many of these they can handle,” Botzek said.
“But with the backdrop of the election, we hope more conservation
and environmental initiatives can be considered.”

Bonding money isn’t a given, but it likely will be easier than
passing something like dedicated funding. It also will be important
to make sure the first half of signup for CREP II was strong, and
that the $10 million in last year’s bonding bill (passed this
spring) is targeted and committed, Botzek said.

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