When you ask Minnesotans what they love most about their state, you often hear “the Great Outdoors.” Each one of our four unique seasons is one of 10,000 reasons to love Minnesota. Protecting this connection to nature is an important part of our culture, and that’s reflected in voters’ investments in the environment.
Over 30 years ago, 77% of Minnesotans voted in favor of using Minnesota State Lottery funds to establish the Environment & Natural Resources Trust Fund (ENRTF). Since then, the trust has invested over $900 million to help restore and protect the environment. Funding has played a vital role in preserving our parks and trails for future Minnesotans to enjoy.
We are approaching the end of the constitutional dedication, which is set to expire in 2025. Minnesotans now have an opportunity to renew our commitment to this vital conservation funding while also improving the funding recommendation process to address new challenges like climate resiliency or ensuring equitable access to the outdoors.
The first step toward reauthorization is for the state to pass legislation that would put the lottery dedication on the ballot in 2024. Bills gained traction in both the House and Senate during the 2022 session, but were not passed before the end of session deadline. Conservation Minnesota will work with our members and partners to advocate for this issue again during the 2023 session.
Every time voters have been asked if Minnesota should use lottery proceeds to protect our land, water, and habitat, over 70% have voted “Yes.” This important source of money is set to expire at the end of 2024. It will be up to us as voters to continue our stewardship of the environment and decide the future of lottery funds.
Lottery Dedication is Important for Our Environment
Lottery funding is critical to conservation projects all over the state. The Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR) provides recommendations to the Legislature which has approved over 1,700 lottery projects that have helped heal our prairies, lakes, and forests. The commission determines if projects meet the requirements "for the public purpose of protection, conservation, preservation, and enhancement of the state's air, water, land, fish, wildlife, and other natural resources.”
If we do not reauthorize the constitutional dedication, funding for thousands of future programs and projects throughout the state could be in jeopardy.
For years the environment has been underfunded. With support from the state’s General Fund dwindling from over 2% to below 1% in the last two decades, more pressure has been put on dedicated sources like the ENRTF because state agency budgets are not able to keep up with the needs. Additionally, reauthorization provides an opportunity to restore lottery funding to 50% after the Legislature reduced the allocation to 40% and there is an opportunity to include language to prevent future diversions.
The reauthorization will allow for needed changes in the funding process. Allowing for reform and process improvement would help make way for diverse new voices, projects, and ideas as legislators and the public redesign the future spending of lottery proceeds.
Making Lasting Change
Whether you like hiking along the Great Lakes, fishing up north, or simply walking and enjoying nature in your neighborhood, love for the Great Outdoors is something we all share. Helping preserve what makes Minnesota special is the backbone of the lottery funding.
If we can’t get the lottery reauthorization passed by 2025, we will lose crucial constitutional protection for funding for the outdoors. Don’t let this opportunity slip away, especially when we’re in a time when we need the Great Outdoors and a healthy environment the most.
See how the ENRTF is making a difference.
The ENRTF in Action
Protecting Endangered Species: The Voyageurs Wolf ProjectCentered around the pristine lakes of Voyageurs National Park this project focuses on researching the great wolves of the north. By studying the habits of these reclusive animals, the Voyageurs Wolf Project is doing cutting edge research with funding from the ENRTF.
Take a look at the life of a Minnesotan Wolf.
Pollinator Friendly: Lawn Grants
Minnesota is creating more pollinator havens thanks to the Lawns to Legumes program funded by the ENRTF. The program offers workshops, expert education, planting guides, and cost-share funding for installing native plants in residential lawns for awarded participants.
Learn more about the Lawns to Legumes program.
Youth Environmental Education for All: Wilderness Inquiry
Wilderness Inquiry works with Captain Planet Foundation for the Minnesota Freshwater Quest Program funded by the ENRTF. Helping 30,000 underserved Minnesota youth (grades 6–12) explore and improve their local waterways through hands-on environmental education.
Learn more about the Minnesota Freshwater Quest program.