Minnesota legislative session under way, with Outdoor Heritage bill on the table

St. Paul — Minnesota legislators were greeted by slick roads and a rally at the Capitol for greater gun control as the session kicked off Tuesday, Feb. 20.

Insiders say the session will focus largely on bonding this session, including a big chunk for the state DNR – $130 million for natural resources asset preservation. Policy issues probably won’t get the attention they did last session, but legislators already have shown interest in addressing issues that surround Lake Mille Lacs fishing, public lands acquisition, minnow importation, and, perhaps, muskie stocking.

At least one bill’s already established itself on the legislative docket – that which would approve the outlay of about $114 million from the Outdoor Heritage Fund, as recommended by the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council. The bill, House File 2789, is sponsored by Rep. Dan Fabian, R-Roseau.

The bill was referred to the House Environment and Natural Resources Policy and Finance Committee, of which Fabian is the chair.

Garry Leaf, of Sportsmen for Change, said the fact that Fabian sponsored the bill a “good sign,” probably indicating it could start quickly out of the chute.

Highlighted in this year’s Outdoor Heritage Fund recommendations are $35.3 million for prairies – things like state wildlife management area and scientific and natural area acquisition, a Northern Tallgrass Prairie National Wildlife Refuge land acquisition, the Cannon River Headwaters Habitat Complex project, and about $5 million for the Board of Water and Soil Resources’ Reinvest in Minnesota “Buffers for Wildlife and Water” project.

There’s also available $9 million for forest projects (a southeast Minnesota protection and restoration project, acquisitions for the Richard J. Dorer Memorial Forest, and others).

About $28 million is recommended to be spent on wetlands projects, including RIM wetlands ($10 million, for the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program) and $4.8 million for the Shallow Lake and Wetland Protection Program.

Around $40 million is earmarked for “habitats,” including the Mississippi Headwaters Habitat Corridor Partnership ($2 million), Fisheries Habitat Protection on Strategic North Central Minnesota Lakes ($2.8 million), the Minnesota Trout Unlimited Coldwater Fish Habitat Enhancement and Restoration ($2.3 million), and several others.

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