MN: Invasive species efforts advance

St. Paul – A bill to prevent the spread of zebra mussels and other aquatic invasive species has cleared its second committee in the House, and was set for its first hearing Tuesday in the Senate.

The bill, HF 1162, carries the DNR and Gov. Mark Dayton's plan to prevent the spread of aquatic invasives. Among other actions, the bill would allow the DNR to step up aquatic invasive species enforcement efforts, and boost penalties for violations.

It sailed through the House environment committee a couple of weeks ago. Its hearing earlier this week in the House Public Safety and Crime Prevention Policy and Finance Committee was to be its first "real test," but it went through without change.

"Overall, there was strong support from all committee members," said Bob Meier, DNR legislative affairs director. "It's clear to me that legislators understand how important this issue is."

A Senate version of the bill carried by Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria, SF 1115, was to be heard for the first time in his Environment and Natural Resources Committee on Tuesday.

"I think that's something we are going to try get through real quickly in a bipartisan fashion," he said. "I don't think it's going to be a problem at all."

Zone 3 deer

A plan to remove regulations that require Zone 3 hunters to shoot only bucks with four antler points on one side, and that don't allow them to tag bucks for one another, has cleared a key House committee.

The DNR, which opposes the plan, put the regulations in place after years of study and after surveying thousands of hunters. They were in effect for the first time last fall, and the agency has said it wants to leave them in place for three years – then re-evaluate them.

Removal of the regulations is now in the House Game and Fish Bill – HF 984 – after Rep. Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa, offered the amendment. The "vast majority" of hunters in Drazkowski's district oppose the regulations, he said.

As of Tuesday afternoon, there had not been a similar effort in the Senate, though the idea is on the radar of Sen. Jeremy Miller, R-Winona. However, he was not ready to offer the amendment yet, according to a spokesman.

Instead, he planned to hold a meeting next Wednesday, April 20, at Southeast Technical College in Winona from 6:30 to 8 p.m. to discuss the regs. The meeting is open to the public, and DNR representatives will be on hand.

Conferees

Members of the conference committee that will hash out the finance bills that include natural resources agency budgets have been named. House members are: Reps. Denny McNamara, R-Hastings; Tom Hackbarth, R-Cedar; Paul Torkelson, R-St. James; Joe Hoppe, R-Chaska; and David Dill, DFL-Crane Lake.

Senate members are: Sens. Ingebrigtsen; Chris Gerlach, R-Apple Valley; John Pederson, R-St. Cloud; Gary Dahms, R-Redwood Falls; and Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont.

Game and Fish

The Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee was set to begin assembling its Game and Fish Bill at a meeting Tuesday afternoon. Ingebrigtsen is carrying the bill – SF 943. It includes a variety of provisions included in last year's bill, which then-Gov. Tim Pawlenty vetoed.

In its environment finance bill, the Senate already has passed some of the provisions in the House Game and Fish bill, including allowing spearing in Cass Lake and reducing the number of lakes with special pike management regulations.

The Senate has approved a provision allowing scopes on muzzleloaders. That provision is not in the House Game and Fish Bill.

Wolf resolution

The Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee last week approved a resolution urging Congress to remove wolves from federal protection under the Endangered Species Act.

"For many years, the Endangered Species Act, with the help of local agencies, aided the recovery and long-term survival of a variety of species," Ingebrigtsen said in a release. "We are proud of those efforts and appreciate the work of all those involved. Like so many others, the gray wolf has recovered and flourished here in Minnesota. However, the renewed numbers have increasingly threatened people, livestock, and big-game industries. As a result, it is time to delist the gray wolf and implement a plan that reflects the health and welfare of both Minnesota citizens and (gray wolves)."

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