Over the objections of sporting, wildlife, conservation and environmental groups, the Minnesota House seems poised to pass HF 1231, a bill whose key provisions affect about $70 million in fish and wildlife habitat spending, following passage in November of what is known as the Legacy Amendment. Conservation and environmental groups had hoped the House — as the Senate has so far — would honor the work of the Lessard Outdoor Heritage Council and its recommendations on fish and wildlife habitat spending. Instead, HF 1231 seeks to restrict how the Lessard group makes its decisions, and even removes the name Lessard from the council, which was named in honor of retired state Sen. Bob Lessard of International Falls. The NRA now joins a host of other organizations, including Pheasants Forever, Ducks Unlimited and the Minnesota Waterfowl Association, in opposing the bill. Here's the text of what the NRA wrote to Minnesota legislators:
May 7, 2009
The National Rifle Association urges your opposition to House File 1231, the current version of Legacy Amendment funding traveling in the House. This (or similar) votes will be included on the NRA legislative scorecard.
The National Rifle Association has recently worked more and more across the country to ensure its members have access to quality wildlife habitat. The protection of wildlife habitat is paramount to all hunters, as it is the primary way to guarantee hunting opportunities for current and future sportsmen.
HF 1231 strays so far from the new constitutional provision and its intent that litigation will be entirely likely to strike down the bill’s provisions should it become law. The reasons are so extensive that we incorporate by reference the May 5, 2009 letter from DNR Commissioner Mark Holsten citing the bill’s problems. Frankly, we wonder if the author witnessed the same testimony as the public, or is pursuing an agenda totally contrary to public interest, stakeholder groups, and the environment.
The NRA is disturbed that HF 1231 would summarily discount months of work done by the Lessard Outdoor Heritage Council (LOHC), and add onerous restrictions, many of which are impossible to comply. The bill also makes changes to the LOHC itself which were not discussed or approved by the Council, let alone a relevant legislative policy committee. The bill requires redundant activity, is outside the scope of the constitutional provision, uses money better spent on the ground, and thus must be removed entirely. The LOHC members have extensive background in conservation and performed above and beyond their duty in a short time frame. Their recommendations are prudent, effective, and have support from environmental and hunting groups alike, even organizations who did not receive funding.
Next, we cannot support this legislation until adequate dollars are spent on the Reinvest In Minnesota (RIM) program out of the Clean Water Fund. The bill leaves millions in federal matching funds behind for FY 2009.
Significant synergy could be found, based on sound science as well as job creation, between adequate RIM funding for clean water and our members' interests as sportsmen. Despite extensive hearings and discussion to that effect, this opportunity has been ignored.
Finally, consider the public confidence that will be shaken in future legislative endeavors. If you fail to stay true to the constitution’s intent, particularly in the first year of funding, other worthy initiatives could be jeopardized.
We look forward to working with the author and all legislators to a mutually beneficial solution. Until then, the NRA cannot stay silent and urges your opposition.
Minnesota State Liaison