Conservation Minnesota

Use the legacy amendment fund as originally intended

Every year the Clean Water Council and the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council make recommendations on how the state of Minnesota should spend the money in the Legacy Amendment fund. We wrote a letter to the Minnesota State House of Representatives asking them not to deviate from the recommendations of the councils.

April 3, 2017

RE: HF707 – House Legacy Finance Omnibus Bill

Dear Representatives,

Tomorrow the House Legacy Finance Omnibus bill will be debated on the floor. Conservation Minnesota has been following this bill all session, and in fact, we have followed all Legacy Amendment appropriations since the fund was created almost 10 years ago. In all those years we have advocated that the legislature follow the recommendations of the councils that help decide how to spend the money. These citizen/legislator councils help bring transparency, accountability and due process to the spending of Legacy Amendment dollars.

We write this letter to specifically address the changes the bill makes to the recommendations of the Clean Water Council and the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council. In the process of moving the bill through committees, there have been significant deviations from the recommendations of these councils.

Article 2 of the bill diminishes or deletes eighteen recommendations of the Clean Water Council. Just to name a few of the funding cuts:

 -the bill proposes to cut $5 million from Surface and Drinking Water Protection Grants,
-the bill defunds the appropriation for Targeted Wellhead/Drinking Water Protection,
-the bill reduces the Minnesota Department of Health’s Source Water Protection funding, and
-the bill cuts $2 million from the Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program

All of these cuts to the Clean Water Council recommendations appear to have been made to fund grants to the Soil and Water Conservation Districts for buffer implementation. We fully support the grants to the SWCDs, but the source of the funding needs to be the general fund, not the Clean Water Fund from the Legacy Amendment.

Article 1 of the bill cuts millions of dollars from projects recommended by the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council.  The bill proposes

-to cut over $2 million from the Wildlife Management Area and State Natural Area acquisitions program within the DNR,
-another $2 million from Pheasants Forever’s Accelerating WMA Acquisition program,
-and Ducks Unlimited’s Shallow Lake and Wetland Protection Program is also cut over $2 million.

The cuts to the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council recommendations appear to make room for the bill to appropriate money for the state ReInvest in Minnesota (RIM) Wetlands Partnership and the federal Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP). RIM/CREP programs are very important programs to improve habitat and protect water quality, but funding for these programs needs to come from sources other than Legacy Amendment funding. Bonding or general funds would be a more appropriate source for RIM/CREP appropriations.

Please consider our concerns with the House Legacy Omnibus Bill (HF707) as you prepare for the floor session on Tuesday.  If you have any questions about this issue, or any other issue, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Thank you for your time.

Paul Austin

About Nels Paulsen

Nels Paulsen
A man of few words, but a great deal of action, Nels Paulsen serves as policy manager for Conservation Minnesota. In that role, he helps the organization set our public policy strategy and then works with the field and communications teams to see that they are successfully implemented. A passion for the great outdoors was a driving force behind the Wisconsin-native’s decision to become a lawyer, and ultimately join our team. 

Saying that his perfect day includes fishing, and that the three things he can’t live without are a fishing pole, his phone and cheese, it only seems natural that he describes his favorite place in the state as being Lake Saganaga. On May 13, 1979, the state record walleye was pulled from the waters just outside the cabin his family owns up there.

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