The ability of public agencies, the Department of Natural Resources in particular, to undertake and complete habitat and other fish and wildlife projects might be a limiting long-term factor in spending money from the Outdoor Heritage Fund, according to Mike Kilgore, chair of the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council.
The Outdoor Heritage Fund was created after passage in 2008 of the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment, which voters overwhelmingly approved.
Kilgore was a luncheon speaker at the DNR gathering Friday, the focus of which this year is waterfowl, ducks in particular.
"We could hit capacity in a few years,'' Kilgore said. "If so, (non-profit conservation groups) perhaps can do some of the projects and do the work cheaper.'' The non-profits, Kilgore said, also can often work more quickly than the DNR.
Kilgore said he is also concerned about the ongoing costs of habitat projects and land acquisitions paid for by the Outdoor Heritage Fund. The cost of maintaining the land and paying taxes on it, or making payments in lieu of taxes, Kilgore said, is a concern.
Finally, Kilgore, a U professor, said that maintaining public support for dedicated funding — raised by a fractional increase in the sales tax approved by voters — will be critical to the program's success.
Thursday morning, the Lessard-Sams council approved nearly $60 million in habitat projects it will recommend to the Legislature when it convenes in February. If approved by lawmakers, the projects will protect, enhance or restore habitat on nearly 60,000 acres, and protect about 112 miles of shoreline.