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Dennis Anderson: GOP effort to slash, shift Minnesota's conservation funding darkens future

Dennis Anderson, Star Tribune on

Published in Outdoors

MINNEAPOLIS — As May approaches and the Legislature grinds toward its final days, we are confronted again by vast differences of opinion about what Minnesota should look like, not just this year or next, or even 10 years from now, but 25 and 50 years into the future.

It's a given that politicians don't often think on such a grand scale. But our challenges are many, and time has long since passed that serious people should consider seriously where Minnesota has been and especially where it's headed, environmentally, and what can be done about it.

Many of the state's rivers, for example, are dirty, as are some of its lakes. Minnesota forests are quickly transitioning, and its native prairies are nearly gone. Add to this urban sprawl spreading like a virulent cancer between Rochester and the Twin Cities and the Twin Cities and St. Cloud, and you have the makings of a state whose best days are behind it.

Many are to blame for this tragedy-in-the-making. Among them in this legislative session are Senate Republicans who are fiddling with environmental funding proposals paid for by lottery proceeds, and who are proposing to whack nearly $10 million in general fund appropriations from the Department of Natural Resources budget.

Examples:

— The Senate proposes to cut aquatic invasive species (AIS) funding from the state's general fund by $1 million and shift that expense to the DNR's Heritage Enhancement Account, a shortsighted plan because hordes of invasive carp, zebra mussels, spiny water fleas, Chinese mystery snails, New Zealand mud snails, starry stonewort, curly-leaf pondweed and a who's-who of other creepy critters and plants have invaded Minnesota waters and will continue to.

 

— Senate Republicans also propose to reduce $1 million in general fund support for the DNR's fight against chronic wasting disease (CWD). The Senate instead wants to shift that amount of CWD funding to the Game and Fish Fund, which is supported by the sale of hunting and fishing licenses.

Additionally, in what should be a personal embarrassment to Republican Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen of Alexandria, a retired sheriff, the Senate proposes to cut $336,000 in general fund appropriations for DNR enforcement, instead asking the DNR's Heritage Enhancement Account within the Game and Fish Fund to step up to the plate for that amount.

The cuts and shifts are being proposed so Republicans can appear to be "holding the line on spending" while actually, in some instances, asking other accounts established originally for other purposes to foot the bill.

In addition to being unsustainable, this cost shifting to "dedicated" accounts betrays the public trust.

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