Monday, January 30th, 2023
Monday, January 30th, 2023

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Senate takes on definitions of ‘enhance, restore, and protect’

St. Paul – What’s in the definition of a word?

A lot, according to those who supported Senate measures to
repeal legislation last year that defined the words “protect,”
“restore,” and “enhance.”

Lawmakers last year approved new definitions of the words, which
are at the crux of the mission of the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage
Council – to make recommendations for spending money raised by the
Legacy Amendment that restore, protect, or enhance wetlands,
prairies, forests, and habitat.

The new definitions are far different than those used by the
council in making its funding recommendations, and, officials say,
inconsistent with how professionals who put conservation on the
ground view the terms.

Garry Leaf, executive director of Sportsmen for Change, said
it’s a hot topic among sportsmen.

“It’s got a lot of energy behind it,” he said. “People are
starting to understand that changing words around is as important
as stealing the money outright.”

The definitions that passed last session and are now in statute
are as follows:

€ Enhance: to improve in value, quality, and desirability in
order to increase the ecological value of land or water.

€ Protect: to protect or preserve ecological systems to maintain
active and healthy ecosystems and prevent future degradation
including, but not limited to, purchase in fee or easement.

€ Restore: renewing degraded, damaged, or destroyed ecosystems
through active human intervention to achieve high-quality
ecosystems.

The L-SOHC definitions, in contrast, refer specifically to
habitat, fish, game, and wildlife.

The Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee has
approved two bills – one authored by Satveer Chaudhary,
DFL-Fridley, another by Tom Saxhaug, DFL-Grand Rapids – that repeal
the definitions the Legislature approved last year. The next stop
is the Senate floor.

Chaudhary’s bill also repeals a “legislative guide” for spending
Legacy Amendment proceeds that lawmakers mandated last year. There
are no companion bills in the House.

Chaudhary said proponents of the definitions are unable to
explain why they’re necessary.

“There has been no showing that our conservation projects are
somehow deficient enough for the Legislature to meddle into them
with unproven definitions and unwarranted micro-management,” he
said.

Jean Wagenius, DFL-Minneapolis, said new definitions are needed
because she believes that under the L-SOHC definitions, for
example, protection is the same as acquisition.

“That means nothing like a fish barrier (would meet the standard
for protection),” she said. “Is that what people intended when they
voted for the amendment?”

Dave Schad, DNR Fish and Wildlife Division director, said the
agency is primarily concerned about the effect the definitions will
have on projects funded through the Outdoor Heritage Fund.

He doesn’t believe definitions are necessary, and that they
could limit work that’s done commonly to manage habitat.

“We already do our habitat work in an ecological context,” he
said. “Trying to force us to go even further isn’t practical. It
isn’t realistic, and it is really going to hamper our ability to
get work done out there.”

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