Minnesotans are waiting for Gov. Mark Dayton to tell us who he is.
He could sign a bill brokered by big shots in the waning hours of the just-concluded legislative session — a deal that would send a knife into the heart of the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council.
Or he could honor a campaign promise he made to hunters, anglers and other conservationists to stand up for the state’s natural resources and the many opportunities they afford Minnesotans, especially the 99 percent who depend on public lands and waters to hunt, fish, camp, boat and paddle.
Dayton could accomplish the latter by signing the Legacy bill, while using his line-item veto to kill $6.3 million in metro parks funding and $3 million in invasive species money.
Minnesota’s Legacy Act was approved in 2008 because voters understood the state was in trouble. Lakes were polluted. Wetlands drained. Prairies plowed.
Too often at the Capitol, people who have opposed such “progress’’ have been overrun. But by 2008, you didn’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind was blowing. Ducks were few. Groundwater too often was contaminated. And too little land was preserved against developers’ bulldozers and farmers’ plows —the equipment that enables each of us to be part of the problem we decry.
But we also can pose solutions, and Legacy voters agreed to tax themselves about $300 million a year, setting aside a third for fish, game and wildlife. The citizen-dominated, 12-member Lessard-Sams Council was established to review habitat proposals and suggest the best to the Legislature.
The work is rewarding. Or was. Until the Legislature politicized the process and approved the metro parks proposal the council had rejected, and an invasive species plan that wasn’t even presented to the council for review.
While campaigning, Dayton said, “I just want everyone to know that if I’m governor, the sportsmen and women of this state are going to have a friend in the governor’s office. I will veto any legislative attempt to usurp the authority of the Lessard-Sams Council.” (See video at www.startribune.com/outdoors).
Now Minnesotans wait to see which governor they elected: a pal to big shots and deals brokered behind closed doors, or a friend to natural resources and the 99 percent of us who depend on public lands and waters to hunt, fish, camp, boat and paddle.
Who will it be?