Here’s an update on the House Legacy bill, which was due for consideration on the floor of that chamber Saturday:
• The bill, which carries the imprint of Legacy Committee Chair Rep. Phyllis Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis, was not considered because some DFL House members are unsure whether they will support it. Moreover, they are uncertain how Kahn’s bill might play out if it does pass, inasmuch as the Senate prefers a proposal carrying the original conservation projects recommended by the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council (LSOHC). Moreover, Senate leaders have indicated they prefer continuation of an annual budget cycle for these projects — paid for by the Outdoor Heritage Fund, created with passage of the 2008 Legacy Amendment — not biennial, as Kahn wants.
• The politics of this brouhaha aren’t complicated. It goes like this: Virtually everyone and every group in the environment, conservation or wildlife business in Minnesota is on one side of the issue (see list), while on the other side are Kahn and a relative handful of colleagues and lobbyists, as well as potential funding recipients if her version of the Legacy bill passes.
• Check out a portion of the letter that the environment, conservation and wildlife groups listed at the end of this column sent to the Legislature, urging them to support the Lessard-Sams proposals: “Since the initial appropriation of the Legacy Amendment proceeds, and as promised to voters, the Legislature has utilized a public vetting process in making decisions on these funds. The mechanisms were established by the Legislature to ensure fairness and transparency and to target public funds to the highest quality projects and most effective programs. The commitment to a process that included citizen review and recommendation helped gain the support of many voters across the state when the Amendment was adopted in 2008. We encourage the Legislature to maintain the integrity of the process … We support and encourage legislative approval of the full annual recommendation of the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council.”
• Ducks Unlimited also wrote to Kahn and her committee: “DU [goes] on record in support of the annual LSOHC public proposal review and recommendation process. Specifically, DU strongly supports the full 2013 OHF appropriation recommendation. Further, we do not support the recent amending of the … bill to include projects that were not publicly solicited, reviewed, and vetted through the citizen and legislative LSOHC process as we believe the voters who approved the Legacy Amendment expect and desire. We firmly believe that it is critical to our collective conservation work in Minnesota that OHF proposals from Ducks Unlimited and all others go through the well-established and proven LSOHC public review process to help ensure OHF funds are successfully invested in projects that produce meaningful and lasting conservation results, as mandated by the voters of Minnesota.”
• Weirdest about this impasse is how easily it could be resolved. 1) The original LSOHC project recommendations must pass this session. 2) The OHF project cycle must remain annual, not biennial. 3) Metro parks and other Twin Cities area conservation and recreation interests should join this summer with the Department of Natural Resources and the Lessard-Sams council to develop a new metro conservation and environment-awareness strategy. Its goal should be to ensure that outdoor activities and interests are sustained in the state’s largest population area, and that to the degree possible, wild places and the fish and wildlife they support in the metro also are sustained. Note: Funding for this would not come exclusively from the OHF, which already allots about 10 percent of its money to the metro. Best, in fact, would be allotments from the OHF’s Conservation Partners Program. 4) Finally, the Fond du Lac band of Chippewa should resubmit the land-acquisition proposal that Kahn supports to the council. But the band and Kahn must appreciate there are constitutional questions regarding hunting on the land, and possibly other issues attendant to its acquisition with OHF money, that need to be resolved before it can be approved.