Thursday, February 9th, 2023
Thursday, February 9th, 2023

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Sportsmen Since 1967

State DNR to see fringe benefits of federal stimulus plan

St. Paul – If state agencies that serve the outdoors of
Minnesota see benefits from the American Recovery and Reinvestment
Act, also known as President Obama’s economic stimulus package,
they’re likely to be peripheral, at best.

Mark Humpert, of the Association of Fish and Wildlife’s “Teaming
with Wildlife,” said much of that group’s attention when it came to
the $787 billion spending package was funding for State Wildlife
Grants, money that’s awarded to states (and matched by states with
the same dollar amount) to address at-risk wildlife species.

“Ninety percent (of wildlife) is between being hunted or fished,
and being endangered,” Humpert said.

Dennis Simon, the DNR’s Wildlife chief, said had the federal
government awarded the state DNR funds from the stimulus bill,
there were projects set to go – “shovel-ready” – that addressed
areas of federal concern, things like invasive species management,
shallow lakes improvements, and shoreline and stream
restoration.

There’s a chance the state could partner with federal agencies
regarding natural resources projects, and there still might be
opportunities for some funding, via federal agencies.

For example, Humpert said the National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration has money that could be available for Great Lakes
shoreline restoration plans that states already have prepared –
things that could lead to immediate employment opportunities.

Simon said the DNR will continue to explore partnership options
with federal agencies like the USFWS.

Some stimulus money awarded the U.S. Forest Service also could
affect that state, and, to some degree the state DNR.

The plan contains about $250 million for “hazardous fuel
reduction and post-fire restoration” through the U.S. Forest
Service, Humpert said.

States were able to apply for stimulus grant funds that came
through the Forest Service, according to Olin Phillips, the DNR’s
forest management and protection section manager. He said state
officials came up with 21 possibilities totalling about $40
million.

“We tried to focus on job creation,” he said.

Among the proposals was one for $2.5 million that would go to
loggers to improve forest health and productivity, mostly through
trimming, that also would improve habitat and reduce the fuel load.
Another $2 million would be used for prescribed burning and
removing invasive species, Phillips said. He said he believed that
state proposals totalled about $400 million, far above the $250
million available.

“We’re waiting now,” he said last week.

Humpert said the AFWA had hoped the stimulus would’ve allowed
the feds to waive the 1:1 match required of states for State
Wildlife Grants. He said Minnesota is eligible for $1.2 million
this year.

“We were disappointed that this program wasn’t funded through
the stimulus (plan),” Humpert said.

The Department of the Interior, which includes the USFWS, the
National Park Service, and several other agencies, was in line for
$3 billion from the stimulus package, with which it could create as
many as 100,000 jobs.

Of that amount, $750 million was designated for the National
Park Service, $500 million for the Bureau of Indian Affairs, $320
million for the Bureau of Land Management, $280 million for the
USFWS, and $140 million for the U.S. Geological Survey.

The USFWS Recovery Act funding, according to an Interior press
release, “will improve energy efficiency and renewable energy use
on refuges and other facilities throughout the nation; restore
wetlands, riparian habitat, endangered species habitat, and other
important landscapes; and restore and rehabilitate facilities that
are crucial to the management and restoration of wildlife and
fisheries.”

A portion of the USGS funding is to replace two 50-year-old
vessels on the Great Lakes used to monitor lake trout and other
species.

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