Forty-six environment projects approved totaling $38 million


More than $38 million to protect, preserve and enhance Minnesota’s natural, fish and wildlife resources was approved by the House Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture Finance Committee Tuesday.

The committee passed HF1113 — funding the annual recommendations of the 17-member Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources, which administers the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund that was created by constitutional amendment in 1988. It uses money generated by the Minnesota State Lottery. The bill now moves to the House Ways and Means Committee.

The bill had bipartisan support and will fund the 46 projects approved by the LCCMR with $33.8 million in 2014 and $4.35 million in 2015. The largest single appropriation is $4.35 million each year for the University of Minnesota’s Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center to develop new techniques to control Asian carp, zebra mussels and other threats.

But HF1113 did not pass without debate.

Rep. Phyllis Kahn (DFL-Mpls) praised HF1113, calling it “one of the best LCCMR bills I think that I have ever seen,” and Rep. Denny McNamara (R-Hastings) agreed. However, an amendment to HF1113 offered by the bill’s sponsor, committee chair Rep. Jean Wagenius (DFL-Mpls), was adopted only after several provisions were stripped out. This included a provision that would have required those purchasing land with an appropriation from the fund to submit the most recent tax assessed value of it, and the amount the buyer planned to offer for an interest in it, to LCCMR and the commissioner of the Department of Natural Resources. Wagenius said this would bring an accountability to the process that had been lacking.

That provision — along with another section at the end of the amendment that called for DNR to assess existing wildlife management areas in the state and determine their desired final boundaries — raised objections from several committee members, many of whom had procedural concerns.

Rep. Rod Hamilton (R-Mountain Lake) said the amendment had more to do with policy than finance, and recalled a March 6 meeting of the Agriculture Policy Committee — on which he and Wagenius both sit — where she’d objected to an amendment he’d offered on the grounds that it had more to do with finance than policy.

Rep. David Dill (DFL-Crane Lake) agreed that the amendment was “all policy” and eventually voted to remove the value assessment subdivision and wildlife management section, which was done.

The bill’s companion, SF987, sponsored by Sen. Kari Dziedzic (DFL-Mpls), awaits action by the Senate Finance Committee.