Friday, January 27th, 2023
Friday, January 27th, 2023

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Dollars for Minnesota fish hatcheries, boat ramps in latest Walz budget proposal

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz and DNR Commissioner Sarah Strommen at last year’s DNR Roundtable. The 2023 Roundtable event is scheduled for Friday, Jan. 20, and Walz will again be on hand. (Photo by Rob Drieslein)

Plymouth, Minn. — Gov. Tim Walz released the second phase of his “One Minnesota Budget” on Thursday, Jan. 19, titled, “Investing in Minnesota’s Economic Future.” 

Thursday’s budget pitch included dollars for fish and wildlife infrastructure, water and soil resources, and agriculture expenditures. The total of this second phase is about $4.1 billion over four years. 

Among the priorities were the $115 million “Get Out More – Modernizing Outdoor Recreation Experiences,” which addresses the need to improve the state’s aging outdoor recreation system. A description said, “… whether you fish, hunt, hike, camp, or paddle, the Get Out More proposal will create transformative improvements to ensure the outdoor recreation needs of Minnesotans are met long into the future.”

RELATED STORY: MN-FISH priorities fit with the DNR’s during 2023 legislative session

A DNR fact sheet on ‘Get Out More’ cited five priorities: 

  • Enhancing Fisheries and Fishing Infrastructure
  • Modernizing Boating Access
  • Restoring Streams and Modernizing Water-related Infrastructure
  • Enhancing Access and Welcoming New Users to Public Lands and Outdoor Recreation Facilities, and
  • Revitalizing Camping and Related Infrastructure

The state fishing advocacy group MN-FISH issued a press release on Thursday applauding the budget for its attention to fish hatchery and public water accesses. Those have been the two main legislative priorities for MN-FISH, and the organization met with Gov. Walz on Friday, Jan. 13, to discuss these points prior to his unveiling of his recommendations this week. 

Including potential bonding money, hatcheries and boat launches could see up to $110 million in budget dollars, according to MN-FISH.

“This is huge news,” said the group’s Executive Director Mark Holsten. “The main goal of MN-FISH since it was launched was to work on behalf of Minnesota anglers and improve the quality of fishing throughout the state. From day one, several members of the state’s fishing community have volunteered to bring anglers’ voices to the state capitol through the organization MN-FISH, and it is working.” 

A former DNR commissioner, Holsten said that under the proposed budget, $60 million will go to fish hatchery improvements ($35 million from general funds and $25 million from bonding) and $50 million will be spent on public water access improvements ($35 million from general funds and $15 million from bonding). 

“This is a great first step,” said MN-FISH President Ron Schara. “Now, the legislature needs to join with Gov. Walz and pass this historic reinvestment in fishing.”

The governor’s official bonding proposal will be available next week.

Other resource priorities

In addition, about $28 million will come from the general fund as well as some additional bonding funds will be used for improving accessibility at state parks and recreation and wildlife management areas. 

In the climate section of Thursday’s budget announcement, Walz proposed $12 million for modernizing regional parks and trails. It’s one-time spending with matching $2 of Metropolitan Council funds for every $3 from the state to support improvements for the Metropolitan Regional Parks System. 

The restoring streams portion of the “Economic Future” budget included $15 million in general funds. Those dollars aim to replace culverts and bridges to enhance fish passage and improve stream ecology. 

In the water, soil, and resources section, the biggest budget item focuses on enhancing grasslands and restoring wetlands across the state. It earmarks $10 million to improve 6,000 acres on public grasslands and wetlands and improve wildlife habitat, reduce flooding, and help water quality. 

Also in this section, there’s $9 million to the Habitat Enhancement Landscape Program. HELP would provide support in increasing the population of wildlife species like bees, butterflies and birds. 

Gov. Walz will be on hand at the Minnesota DNR Roundtable on Friday, Jan. 20. He will announce his final “One Minnesota Budget” on Tuesday, Jan. 24.

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