Funding bill clears second committee

By Joe
Albert

Staff Writer

St. Paul – Dedicated funding’s push through the Legislature took
another step forward Monday, when it passed out of its second
Senate committee.

Senate Majority Leader Larry Pogemiller’s bill, SF 6, left the
State and Local Government Operations and Oversight Committee
virtually unscathed, though changes were made to the council that
would oversee the fish and wildlife habitat money raised by the
bill.

Pogemiller’s bill would increase the state sales tax by 3/8 of 1
percent and distribute the money four ways: 34 percent to fish and
wildlife habitat and tourism; 22 percent to parks, trails, and
zoos; 22 percent to clean water; and 22 percent to arts and
humanities.

The bill’s next stop is the Finance Committee.

In the House, Rep. Rick Hansen, DFL-South St. Paul, has
introduced the version supported by a number of groups, including
the Campaign for Conservation.

The bill, HF 1449, would increase the sales tax by 1/4 of 1
percent and split the money between natural resources and clean
water. The bill seeks the issuance of bonds, a provision supporters
say will get money on the ground faster.

That bill is expected to be introduced in the Senate later this
week.

Other than bill introductions, there hasn’t been any action in
the House on dedicated funding.

‘We’re working slowly toward dedicated funding,’ said Lance
Ness, of the Fish and Wildlife Legislative Alliance. ‘We really
need it to happen this year.’

Budget discussion

When Gov. Tim Pawlenty unveiled his proposed budget two months
ago, it was clear that spending on conservation and the environment
would increase.

According to a report by Conservation Minnesota, that’s true,
but not by much: In fiscal year 2007, conservation spending
amounted to about 1.15 percent of the state’s general fund; in
2008, it would be about 1.16 percent.

The report also noted there is a $1.132 billion surplus for the
upcoming budget cycle (2008-09) and $1.038 billion in one-time
money.

‘It’s an opportunity to start addressing those larger needs,’
said Paul Austin, executive director of Conservation Minnesota.
‘There’s a little bit of a bump there – some things happening here
and there.’

But Pawlenty’s budget ‘nibbles around the edges’ of large
issues, such as funding for the Clean Water Legacy Act, he
said.

Pawlenty’s budget seeks $20 million per year for the next two
years from the general fund for clean water. That’s $80 million a
year below what most clean-water proponents say is necessary, and –
because there were bonding dollars used last year for clean water –
the total clean-water package is about $5 million less than last
year, Austin said.

Among the two-year increases Pawlenty sought in his proposal:
$575,000 per year for prairie wetlands; $1.25 million over two
years for improvements in drainage records; and $1.1 million per
year for work associated with the Wetland Conservation Act.

Pawlenty proposed to raise some fees, including one that would
increase the cost to stay at a state park by about $2 per night,
and another that would increase the watercraft surcharge and add a
surcharge for trailers and campers.

Despite fee increases, conservation agency budgets have not kept
up with inflation and will have declined by $100 million, or 18
percent, between 2001 and 2009, according to the report, completed
by consultant Cheryl Appeldorn.

Legislators will consider Pawlenty’s proposal as they work to
create a state budget. Efforts to do that are expected to begin in
earnest this week with the release of the latest economic
forecast.

Lake trout

Late last week, Sen. Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, introduced SF 1131,
which, along with HF 1021, authored by Rep. David Dill, DFL-Crane
Lake, would allow a limited commercial fishery for lake trout in
Lake Superior.

A hearing in the House was scheduled for earlier this week.

HF 1021 began as the DNR’s bill – it would have removed lake
trout from the list of fish that can be commercially netted.
Neither bill indicates the number of trout that could be taken, but
they say the DNR could issue special permits to commercial fishing
operators for taking lake trout.

Supporters say the lake trout would supply local grocery stores
and restaurants with fresh fish.

The DNR acknowledges that netting in this case isn’t a
biological issue, but opposes any expansion of commercial
netting.

‘We are trying to move away from commercial harvesting wherever
we can,’ said DNR Assistant Commissioner Bob Meier.

Under HF 1228 and SF 1132, offered by Dill and Bakk, the lake
trout season on lakes entirely or partly within the Boundary Waters
Canoe Area would begin the Saturday nearest Jan.1 and end March
31.

Lakes inside and outside the BWCA have different closing dates,
but some lakes are both inside and outside the Boundary Waters,
and, as such, close at different times.

CRP and WRP

A resolution (HF 151, Rep. Chris DeLaForest, R-Andover) that
requests Congress to reauthorize the Conservation and Wetlands
reserve program in the 2007 Farm Bill has passed out of its first
Senate committee.

The resolution notes that about 1.8 million acres of
environmentally sensitive land is enrolled in CRP, and that in 2006
about 14,500 acres were enrolled in WRP, behind Arkansas and
Nebraska.

Sucker spearing and netting

Companion bills in the Senate and House (SF 1171, Paul Koering,
R-Fort Ripley, and HF 1362, Al Doty, DFL-Royalton) would allow a
spearing or dip-netting season for suckers before May 1 when it
wouldn’t interfere with the spawning of other fish.

ATVs

SF 1270, introduced by John Marty, DFL-Roseville, would create
‘state forest traditional areas’ in at least half of each state
forest. Within that area, no ATVs would be allowed on state forest
roads, no off-highway vehicles would be allowed, and no hunting or
trapping using an off-highway vehicle would be allowed. The bill’s
companion in the House, HF 1389, was introduced by Paul Thissen,
DFL-Minneapolis.

Another Marty bill, SF 1269, along with HF 1390, offered by
Larry Howes, R-Walker, would do away with the managed
classification for state forests for off-road vehicle travel.

The DNR opposes such a bill. The agency wants to continue
‘managed use on managed trails – closing down what should be closed
and allowing use where it makes sense,’ Meier said. ‘We need to
continue down the path we are going.’

SF 1185, authored by Dan Skogen, DFL-Hewitt, would create an
off-highway vehicle safety and conservation program ‘to encourage
off-highway vehicle clubs to assist, on a volunteer basis, in
improving, maintaining, and monitoring of trails on state forest
land and other public lands,’according to the bill.

Lead tackle

Lead sinkers and lures weighing less than one-half ounce would
be banned, after a phase-in period, under a bill (SF 1293) by
Yvonne Prettner Solon, DFL-Duluth. The bill doesn’t specify how
long the phase-in period would last.

While lead in the environment is a concern, ‘we’ve always been
on the voluntary side of things,’ Meier said.

Crossbows

HF 1241, introduced by Cy Thao, DFL-St. Paul, would do away with
a provision that says, among other things, that people may not hunt
with a bow drawn, held, or released by a mechanical device.

Essentially, it would allow everyone – not just those with
certain disabled hunter permits – to use a crossbow.

‘We don’t support that,’ Meier said. ‘They are the ultimate
poaching machine. That’s our biggest fear.’

Muzzleloaders

A law that from 2006 that banned smokeless gunpowder in
muzzleloaders during the muzzleloader season would be repealed
under HF 1211, introduced by Mary Ellen Otremba, DFL-Long
Prairie.

Trust fund

A proposed constitutional amendment, in bills authored by Hansen
(HF 1093) and Rick Olseen, DFL-Harris (SF 1291) would, among other
things, ask voters if they want to increase the amount of net
proceeds from the state lottery that go to the Environment and
Natural Resources Trust Fund from 40 percent to 80 percent.

Categories: Hunting News

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *