Wednesday, February 8th, 2023
Wednesday, February 8th, 2023

Breaking News for

Sportsmen Since 1967

Prairie wildlife habitat acquisitions highlight Legacy Act’s first five years

Several hundred people turned out for the Legacy Act 5th Anniversary Celebration and Forum Thursday at the Minneapolis Marriott Northwest in Brooklyn Park. The same facility will host the annual DNR Roundtable today.

Walking in, I briefly noticed two things. One, there were a lot more people present to celebrate the success of Legacy than there were to advocate for the concept 15 years ago. Those early discussions when sportsmen got the ball rolling on the dedicated funding concept started really small. Two, the average age of these events continues to rise.

Disappointingly, in the opening “plenary” session, no one mentioned the Missouri Plan, which was the model for the original dedicated funding effort. Outdoor News sent Shawn Perich to Missouri in February 2000 to write a series of articles profiling the Show-Me State’s conservation funding initiative, and long before the arts, parks and trails, and even most state environmentalists had ever considered the concept of dedicated funding, casters and blasters were marching through the State Capitol halls advocating for 3/16s and the Missouri Plan. As long as I’m around, no one will forget that state sportsmen and the outdoor media in the Twin Cities were the unrelenting driving force and motivation behind this effort for the vast majority of the years we campaigned for it.

Some important nuggets emerged during the discussion. One, don’t forget the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund, which receives lottery proceeds. Its dedication ends in 2025, which amazingly is only 10 years away. The effort to gear up and renew lottery funding for distribution by the Legislative Citizens Commission on Minnesota Resources likely will get rolling before the end of this decade.

Speaking of renewal, Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council Chair David Hartwell referenced an important point about dedicated funding we all need to remember: Unless we renew it, it will end in 20 years.

“At what point do we need to put a stake in the ground and make it permanent?” Hartwell asked.

Mid-afternoon, attendees broke into groups focusing on the Outdoor Heritage Fund, Clean Water Fund, and Parks and Trails Fund. During the OHF portion, Jon Schneider, Minnesota conservation program manager for Ducks Unlimited, outlined some of the projects Legacy has helped finance the past five years.

Schneider opened by noting that less than 10 percent of Minnesota’s original prairie wetlands and 2 percent of the state’s prairie grasslands remain. Priorities going forward must be: Protect remaining prairie and wetlands, restore converted prairie and wetlands, and enhance degraded prairie and wetlands.

Amen.

As part of its Waterfowl Production Area Acceleration Program, Schneider noted, Pheasants Forever has set aside 7,158 acres in 58 projects the past half-decade. Add another 47 projects and 9,000 acres for its Wildlife Management Area Acceleration Program thanks to Legacy funds.

As the same time, Schneider said DU has completed $18 million in projects including 20 fee title efforts and another 40 shallow lake enhancements. Schneider told me after his presentation that he’d estimate those fee title acquisitions somewhere between 1,500 and 2,000 acres.

In addition, The Nature Conservancy has two great efforts using Legacy dollars: its Minnesota Prairie Recovery Project and the Northern Tallgrass Prairie National Wildlife Refuge. Between acquisitions and easements, those two initiatives have protected more than 6,000 acres, plus enhanced a boatload of other public lands.

I’ll allow readers to tally all that up  and extrapolate forward, but that’s a lot of land for wildlife habitat, carbon sequestration, and improved water quality in the next 20 years.

I’ll close this blog out with quotes from a couple former state senators who helped cut the 5th Anniversary cake yesterday: Dennis Fredrickson and Bob Lessard.

Fredrickson: “I’m hoping that in another 20 years we can show Legacy has been worthwhile and can extend it.”

Lessard: “I’m a dinosaur. It’s up to young people to protect this money for the future.”

Watch for complete coverage of the Legacy Celebration and the Roundtable in next week’s print edition of Outdoor News.

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