Bonding, policy matters still to come at Capitol

St. Paul – While passage of a dedicated funding bill likely will
be the highlight of the legislative session, there nevertheless are
a number of items on the agenda.

Lawmakers have said they intend to quickly assemble and pass a
capital bonding bill, and a number of bills dealing with policies
that would affect hunters and anglers have been offered in both the
House and Senate.

“The bonding bill – which has everything from WMAs to SNAs to
AMAs to forest legacy – all of that is important,” said Gary
Botzek, executive director of the Minnesota Conservation
Federation. “We don’t want to lose sight of the traditional funding
sources.”

Bills in both bodies include requests for about $40 million for
the RIM Reserve Program. Each state dollar could leverage about
$1.40 in federal funds, according to Rep. Rick Hansen, DFL-South
St. Paul, who authored the RIM bill in the House.

Supporters are watching RIM dollars closely. When a bonding bill
wasn’t completed last year, the state forfeited millions of federal
Wetlands Reserve Program dollars.

“The goal, of course, is to make sure we don’t repeat last
year’s mistake of sending $13 million back to Washington,” said
Ryan Heiniger, Ducks Unlimited director of conservation programs in
Minnesota and Iowa.

Early opener

Sen. Satveer Chaudhary, DFL-Fridley, will introduce a package
this week or next that includes opening the walleye-fishing season
earlier – on the Saturday closest to May 8.

Included is a drop in the statewide walleye limit (from six fish
to four) and a protected slot (14 to 20 inches, with one fish over
20 inches). During the first week of the season (if it opens a week
earlier than it currently does), the regulations for waters north
of Highway 2 would be more restrictive, like those at the Rainy
River during the April season there.

Chaudhary says there’s a lot of support for an earlier opener,
and that moving it so it doesn’t coincide with Mother’s Day will
help bring new anglers into the sport.

“I’ve been astounded at how many times I’ve been tapped on the
shoulder in public places by strangers saying, ‘Yeah, why do we
have this conflict?’” he said. “If we are really serious about
getting new people into fishing – women and children – we’ve got to
start putting our actions where our mouths are.”

Other bills

€ Sen. Tom Saxhaug, DFL-Grand Rapids, has a bill – SF 2649 –
that allows hunters to use muzzleloaders with scopes on them;
creates a new all-firearm season deer license, which would allow
hunters to hunt during the regular firearms season and the
muzzleloader season, and take two deer (one could be a buck); and
allows up to 10 additional bear hunting permits to be issued for
“the promotion of scientific, conservation, or educational
purposes.”

€ Saxhaug also has SF 2708, which requests $30 million from bond
sales to be used by the DNR to acquire easements on private forest
land.

€ Rep. David Dill, DFL-Crane Lake, and Sen. Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook,
have bills (HF 2871 and SF 2565) that would create a new
conservation angling license. The license would be two-thirds the
price of a standard license, and daily and possession limits for
anglers who have it would be half of what they could take with a
standard license.

€ It became legal last year for deer hunters to use crossbows
during the regular firearms season. Bear and turkey hunters also
would be able to use crossbows during the regular firearms season
for those species, under HF 2794, authored by Rep. Cy Thao, DFL-St.
Paul.

€ A bill to abolish the state’s dove season, SF 2329, will
receive a hearing in the Environment and Natural Resources
Committee, which Chaudhary chairs.

“I don’t support it, but I will give it a fair hearing,” he
said.

€ HF 3017, authored by Rep. Ken Tschumper, DFL-La Crescent,
would remove the exemption from environmental impact statements for
some ethanol plants.

€ Hansen and Sen. Ann Rest, DFL-New Hope, have bills (HF 2963
and SF 2517) to regulate ballast water in Lake Superior.

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