Natural resources make strong showing among early legislative bills

Many years, lawmakers are a month deep into the legislative session by this time of year. But thanks to a later start time in 2016 – March 8 at noon – it will be a relatively compressed session, ending around the middle of May.

Still, there are some big natural resource-related issues on the agenda. Perusing through the 200-some bills that were introduced at the end of January, a fair number had to do with conservation and the outdoors. As always, some are good and some are bad, depending upon where you stand.

In my mind, two of the best bills are HF 2475 and HF 2477. Rep. Rick Hansen, DFL-South St. Paul, introduced both.

HF 2475 includes bonding money for a variety of projects, but the biggest, in my mind, is the $9.5 million it includes for aquatic and wildlife management area acquisition. Bonding typically has been a source of funding for WMAs, but that’s pretty much dried up since passage of the Legacy Amendment in 2008. That money would be used under the auspices of the state’s pheasant plan, which is a good thing.

The other bill, HF 2477, also includes money for on-the-ground habitat. In this case, it would provide $30 million in bonding proceeds for Reinvest in Minnesota, which would go toward Minnesota’s share of a third round of the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program. Again, it’s a lot of money that provides not only habitat, but also has clean water benefits.

Stay tuned to see how these and other pieces of legislation play out.

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