Wednesday, February 8th, 2023
Wednesday, February 8th, 2023

Breaking News for

Sportsmen Since 1967

With dedicated funding in the bag, what now?

St. Paul – For the past 10 years, the most dominant
outdoors-related theme at the Legislature has been dedicated
funding for natural resources.

While outdoors proponents worked on other issues, too – funding
for wildlife management areas, for example – those often played
second fiddle to the Big Kahuna.

But that’s no longer the case, given voters’ approval on Nov. 4
of the amendment, and – during the upcoming session, which begins
Jan. 6 – more and more effort likely will be aimed at tackling
legislation that affects the activities of fishermen and
hunters.

“You’re going to see a lot of (focus) on some of the policy
bills that have been kind of second tier” as we worked on dedicated
funding, said Gary Botzek, executive director of the Minnesota
Conservation Federation. “It will be different. Refreshing, I
think, is the word.”

While dedicated funding now is a reality, it still will receive
attention as supporters work to ensure the proceeds supplement –
and not supplant – traditional sources of outdoors funding.

They also plan to watch closely the Lessard Outdoor Heritage
Council, created last year to recommend spending from the Outdoor
Heritage Fund (about $90 million a year) to the Legislature, as
well as the legislative committees that will ultimately determine
how the money is spent.

“There’s an awful lot of people watching this whole process to
make sure it comes about the way we expect it to,” said Don
McMillan, president of the Minnesota Outdoor Heritage Alliance.

A number of other topics likely will be under consideration,
too.

WMAs

Past legislative sessions have seen a keen focus on WMAs, and
that’s unlikely to change during the current session.

Botzek said MCF plans to work with lawmakers and other groups to
better define the appropriate role of local governments in the
acquisitions of WMAs. There have been some instances in which
landowners wanted to sell land to the DNR, and the DNR wanted to
buy the land, but the local government blocked the sale.

Encroachment continues to be an issue, too, particularly as it
relates to people buying properties that abut WMAs. In some cases,
those homeowners like having the open space behind their homes, but
not the hunting and other recreation that goes along with WMAs.

The need is to let people know “they’re not buying up against a
refuge, they’re buying up against a WMA,” Botzek said.

Access to landlocked parts of WMAs as well as food plots on WMAs
will be discussed, too, said Lance Ness, president of the Fish and
Wildlife Legislative Alliance.

Deer shining

An MCF initiative to tighten the rules regarding recreational
deer shining made it to a conference committee last year, but
ultimately wasn’t approved. MCF will have another shining bill this
year, Botzek said.

“We need to tighten up the recreational shining that’s taking
place literally in cities and suburbs, as well as in farm settings
and feedlot scenarios,” he said.

ATVs

There will be some sort of a proposal to seize all-terrain
vehicles for certain violations of ATV laws, said Sen. Satveer
Chaudhary, a DFLer from Fridley who chairs the Environment and
Natural Resources Committee.

He might carry the bill.

“Dealing with the bad actors on ATVs is an outstanding issue and
it has to be addressed,” Chaudhary said. “They are ruining the
sport for the people who enjoy ATVs responsibly.”

The DNR perspective

Dealing with the ramifications of the more than $5 billion state
budget deficit will be the DNR’s focus, according to Bob Meier,
assistant commissioner. The agency likely will have to come up with
about $7.2 million in General Fund reductions.

The agency also is working to finish reports to the Legislature
on uncased firearms, disabled hunting, and outdoor education, Meier
said.

“We’re working on those reports, and I assume the Legislature
may pick up some of those recommendations,” he said.

But the recommendations won’t be contained in DNR policy bills.
Indeed, from the agency’s perspective, the overall focus will be
more on budget than on policy, Meier said.

“We have done so much in the past four years with game and fish
stuff (such as deer season simplification and creation of a
conservation angling license),” he said. “We just feel like it is
time to slow down a little bit and let some of those things take
effect and let people get used to them.”

The agency will be actively engaged in policy matters, “but we
are not going to come in with two dozen bills like we have in the
past,” Meier said.

Duck Rally disbands

A coalition that came together early in 2005 is disbanding. The
main goal of the Duck Rally, which included more than 30 groups,
was to ensure passage of dedicated funding. Since that happened,
there isn’t a need for the group to remain in place, said Dave
Zentner, Rally co-chair.

“The agreement always was that it should be a coalition of
fairly short life with a high-energy, very specific objective,” he
said.

In addition, the group put on two rallies at the state Capitol
and pushed other legislative issues. It had success on issues such
as reform of the Legislative Commission on Minnesota Resources, and
increased funding for the Clean Water Legacy Act and WMAs. The
group also supported the Wetlands Loan Act, which has not made it
through Congress.

Share on Social

Facebook
Twitter
LinkedIn
Email

Hand-Picked For You

Related Articles