Minnesota legacy bill awaits Governor Dayton’s signature

St. Paul — Lawmakers largely stayed true to the funding recommendations of the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council in a bill they approved last week.

Gov. Mark Dayton was to act on the Legacy Bill, which contains nearly $100 million worth of projects from the Outdoor Heritage Fund, earlier this week.

The Outdoor Heritage Fund takes in a portion of the revenue raised by a sales tax increase that voters approved in 2008.

“I think it’s a good bill,” said Bill Becker, executive director of the L-SOHC. “It does a lot of good for habitat.”

A main point of contention with the bill had been funding for the Mississippi Northwoods project, a 2,000-acre property that includes nearly three miles of Mississippi River shoreline near Brainerd.

The council originally tabbed $14 million to acquire the land. While a Senate bill maintained that amount, a House bill lowered it to about $7 million. A conference committee settled in the middle – at about $11 million – but included a wrinkle.

“It’s a really fair and creative agreement they reached,” said Becca Nash, of the Trust for Public Land. “If there is extra money in the (aquatic invasive species) appropriation, it goes to Mississippi River Northwoods. And if there is extra money in Mississippi River Northwoods, it goes to AIS.”

The bill includes $7.5 million for barriers designed to slow the spread of Asian carp. But if there is unspent AIS money remaining Dec. 15, 2012, it could be used for the Northwoods project, if necessary.

The Potlatch Corporation owns the Northwoods property; Nash believes the $11 million appropriation is “enough to keep the project moving ahead.”

But there’s some uncertainty  as to how much will be necessary to complete the project because there’s an appraisal and review process that’s still required.

“As we progress, and as we figure out what the final number is and where the AIS work is, we may have more fund-raising to do,” Nash said. “But we won’t know that for a little while here.”

Other Outdoor Heritage Fund projects include:

  • $13.8 million for the Reinvest in Minnesota Wetlands Reserve Program partnership;
  • $8.36 million for shallows lakes and wetlands work;
  • $5.2 million for wildlife management areas;
  • $5.4 million for waterfowl production areas;
  • $4.99 million for the Outdoor Heritage Conservation Partners Grant Program;
  • $3.48 million for aquatic management areas;
  • $960,000 for the Minnesota Moose Habitat Collaborative.

Research center

The bill also would create an Aquatic Invasive Species Cooperative Research Center at the University of Minnesota. Money from the Clean Water Fund ($1.8 million) and the lottery-funded Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund ($2 million) would be used to develop and implement the center.

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