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Friday, April 19th, 2024

Breaking News for

Sportsmen Since 1967

Friday, April 19th, 2024

Breaking News for

Sportsmen Since 1967

Legislative session under way with focus on Minnesota’s rough fish

Tyler Winter, co-founder and director of Native Fish for Tomorrow, was a part of the discussions as the Minnesota DNR developed its Native Fish Conservation Report, releasing it in December 2023. Winter is holding a bowfin (dogfish), which is one of the more popular of Minnesota’s rough fish. Legislators are expected to propose changing statute to refer to rough fish as native rough fish, to distinguish them from invasive species. (Photo courtesy of Tyler Winter)

St. Paul — The Minnesota legislative session kicked off Monday, Feb. 12, at the State Capitol in St. Paul. As the session started, there were several bills introduced for further discussion by committees, and many of them applied to natural resources, the environment, or hunting and fishing.

One bill that hasn’t been introduced but is anticipated to come shortly focuses on native rough fish. The Minnesota DNR worked with experts and stakeholders to develop the Native Fish Conservation Report that it completed in December 2023.

Part of the report indicates two objectives for the Legislature. The first is eliminating the term “rough fish” and replacing it with “native rough fish” in state statute. The other is granting the DNR expedited rulemaking authority to establish daily and possession limits on rough fish.

Bob Meier, DNR assistant commissioner, said in a previous interview with Outdoor News that the DNR’s game and fish bill will include these two items for the 2024 session. Tyler Winter, co-founder and director of Native Fish for Tomorrow, was part of the discussion in creating the report, and he said he’s looking forward to a bright future for rough fish.

Freshwater drum can be fun to catch for anglers and the species is also known to include zebra mussels as a part of its diet. (Photo courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

“I think overall the report is really good,” Winter said. “It addresses some of these systematic problems like having one category. … It’s really hard to overstate the negative impacts of managing these native fish as if they’re invasive.”

Anglers sometimes think bowfin are snakeheads and buffalo are carp, according to Winter. The report allows rough fish to have its own category, and the DNR being able to do rulemaking will help the population grow in the future.

Besides catching rough fish, Winter said he also enjoys harvesting and eating them.

He added that the sucker species have a white, lean flesh, not oily like carp. There are other fish like bowfin and freshwater drum that taste good as well, but Winter wants to keep fish like drum in the water because they eat zebra mussels.

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As for the future, Winter hopes to see habitat projects that benefit rough fish. He added there are more people advocating for these fish and the attention will lead to more work being done to protect them.

“The thing I would most like people to understand is that the regulations and rules and the way that we treat and manage these fish is archaic,” Winter said. “That this is literally an idea and a management strategy that dates back to 1907.”

LCCMR, LSOHC recommendations

On Feb. 12, there were 245 bills introduced in the Minnesota House of Representatives, while the Senate introduced 197 bills.

Many of these bills have been discussed during the legislative break, and some of them relate to the outdoors and the environment.

The two biggest bills are related to Legislative-Citizen Commission on Natural Resources and Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council recommendations. The two bodies met throughout 2023 and determined projects that would be funded by the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund and the Outdoor Heritage Fund.

The LCCMR recommendations bill, with about $80 million in appropriations, will be HF 3377, authored by Rep. Rick Hansen, DFL-South St. Paul, and SF 3507, authored by Sen. Foung Hawj, DFL-St. Paul. The LSOHC recommendations bill hasn’t been introduced yet, but it’s anticipated to come soon.

Hansen and Hawj said, in previous interviews with Outdoor News, that these two bills are their priority to pass quickly with bipartisanship.

Other bills introduced

• HF 3385, authored by Rep. Kristi Pursell, DFL-Northfield, and SF 3558, authored by Sen. Mary Kunesh, DFL-New Brighton, modifies the definition of public waters.

• HF 3418, authored by Hansen and Rep. Sydney Jordan, DFL-Minneapolis, enhances values for mistreatment of wild animals, protection of threatened species is clarified, and it provides a possibility of a transfer or sale of bison if necessary.

• HF 3455, authored by Rep. Matt Norris, DFL-Blaine: A bill that modifies citizen oversight committees by changing the title from “citizen oversight committee” to “Fish and Wildlife Advisory Committee.” Part of the bill requires the committee to submit a report by Aug. 15 each year. Each even-numbered year, the report will focus on biennial budget outcomes achieved from game and fish fund expenditures. Each odd-numbered year, the report will focus on outcomes related to protecting habitat, fish and wildlife population management, monitoring and research, and communications and engagement.

• HF 3458, authored by Rep. Sandra Feist, DFL-New Brighton, and SF 3434, authored by Sen. Kelly Morrison, DFL-Deephaven, would prohibit certain nonferrous mining activities in the Rainy River headwaters watershed.

• SF 3327, authored by Sen. Jim Abeler, R-Anoka, modifies mining restrictions near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness by adding the Rainy River headwaters.

• HF 3474, authored by Rep. Liz Reyer, DFL-Eagan, appropriates money for the Reinvest in Minnesota Reserve Program. If passed, it would direct $1 million to the Board of Water and Soil Resources to complete systematic assessments and $3 million to BWSR for grants to soil and water conservation districts.

• HF 3508, authored by Hansen, adds land to a few state parks and abolishes Upper Sioux Agency State Park and Hill-Annex Mine State Park.

• HF 3550, authored by Hansen, and SF 3559, authored by Hawj, modifies provisions for watersheds, soil and water conservations districts, and wetland management as well as modify wetland banking program and conservation easement programs.

• HF 3376, authored by Rep. Emma Greenman, DFL-Minneapolis, and SF 3400, authored by Sen. John Hoffman, DFL-Champlin, allows the use of a digital image as proof of possession for game and fish licenses.

• SF 3557, authored by Kunesh, requires tax-forfeited land that includes land within the boundary of an Indian reservation to be offered to affected bands before being offered for sale to other parties.

• HF 3570, authored by Rep. Leigh Finke, DFL-St. Paul, prohibits the sale or transfer of “semi-automatic military-style assault weapons” and authorizing a buyback program for the firearms. To view the guns on the bill’s list, visit www.leg.mn.gov.

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