MN: Bills seek $25M for state RIM

St. Paul – When Gov. Mark Dayton proposed his nearly $800
million bonding bill, he didn’t include anything for the Board of
Water and Soil Resources.

But proposals have emerged in the Legislature that would fund some
of the work the agency does.

One, carried in the Senate by Gary Dahms, R-Redwood Falls, and in
the House by Paul Torkelson, R-Nelson Township, would use $25
million in bond proceeds for the Reinvest in Minnesota Reserve
program.

RIM proponents say funding for the program is important because
each state RIM dollar leverages 1.6 federal Wetlands Reserve
Program dollars.

“We certainly have a need,” said John Jaschke, the board’s
executive director. “And no need can be more clear and present than
the (habitat loss) we are going to face with the expiring CRP acres
in the state.”

Minnesota is set to lose about 300,000 acres of CRP this year,
though some of those acres could be re-enrolled – or new ground
could be added – during a sign-up period that begins in
March.

“We certainly can’t keep anywhere near all of the acres we are
going to lose, but we’re looking at trying to maintain the most
critical land,” Jaschke said.

That includes wetlands that already have been restored, and buffer
strips along waterways such as streams and rivers.

In addition to the bonding proposals, the Lessard-Sams Outdoor
Heritage Council also has recommended spending $13.8 million on
RIM. Bills containing the recommendations have been introduced in
the House and Senate.

Sen. Joe Gimse, R-Willmar, also has a bill that would send $13.1
million in bond proceeds to BWSR “to acquire land for wetland
restoration or preservation to replace wetlands drained or filled
as a result of the repair or reconstruction, replacement, or
rehabilitation of existing public roads.”

Rep. Debra Kiel, R-Crookston, is expected to carry the bill in the
House.

Bonding has been used to fund that activity since 1996. As part of
it, BWSR is able to mitigate small wetland impacts, and replace
them elsewhere. So if, for example, there were 10 road projects
that each affected 2 acres of wetlands, the board could replace
those 10 impacts at one 20-acre site.

“They are put into locations that are nearby – typically in the
same county or major watershed,” Jaschke said.

Since 1996, three or four of the sites have become wildlife
management areas, or additions to WMAs, he said.

“Wherever we can, we try to enhance them for those kinds of
purposes,” Jaschke said.

Other legislation

A number of other bills related to the outdoors also have been
introduced. They include:

• HF 2228, authored by Jean Wagenius, DFL-Minneapolis, would
increase the amount the DNR can pay to acquire land – from 10
percent above the appraised value to 20 percent of the appraised
value. The agency could pay above that if “the commissioner
determines that the acquisition is a high priority because the land
is adjacent to other public land, would conserve a high degree of
biological diversity, or is otherwise a high priority for the
department. The commissioner shall document the reason for the
determination in writing.”

• Sen. Ken Kelash, DFL-Minneapolis, has legislation – SF 1787 –
that would send $750,000 from the Outdoor Heritage Fund to the
University of Minnesota to establish an aquatic invasive species
research center. The bill also would use $1.2 million from the
Outdoor Heritage Fund each year for four years to fund the research
center.

The Outdoor Heritage Fund takes in money from the Legacy Amendment
that voters in the state approved in 2008.

• Rep. Tony Cornish, R-Good Thunder, is carrying a bill – HF 2121 –
that proposes to amend the state constitution. It would ask voters
the following question during the general election this fall:
“Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to protect as
fundamental the right of individuals to keep, carry, and use arms
for defense of life and liberty and for all other legitimate
purposes?”

• Bills in the House and Senate – HF 2206, authored by Tom
Rukavina, DFL-Virginia, and David Tomassoni, DFL-Chisholm,
respectively – would amend a statute that deals with trespass. It
would say: “No person may shoot a firearm without the permission of
the owner, occupant, or lessee, within 500 feet of a stockade or
corral containing livestock.”

• SF 1376, authored by Sen. Michelle Benson, would make the black
bear the official mammal of the state. Rep. Carolyn Laine,
DFL-Columbia Heights, has the House companion (HF 1657).

• Trappers who use snares wouldn’t have to tend them more
frequently than once every third calendar day, under a bill
Tomassoni is carrying (SF 1820).

• Sen. Linda Higgins, DFL-Minneapolis, has a bill – SF 1828 – that
would prohibit the use of lead shot while hunting wolves with
firearms.

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